In a nod to more than a century of Western influence in Hong Kong, a top retailer has brought in a foreign face to front its biggest advertising campaign of the year for Chinese society’s most important holiday.
Supermarket chain Wellcome, the city’s biggest grocer by market share, confirmed it is the first time in its nearly 70-year history that a Westerner has been recruited for the critical festive marketing blitz of Lunar New Year.
Hong Kong-born New Zealander Corinna Chamberlain, also known as Chan Ming-yan is one of five main faces chosen for the Year of the Horse campaign.
“There are a lot of Westerners in Hong Kong now who’ve lived here many years – a growing community of people who are not Chinese – they consider Hong Kong their home,” Chamberlain said.
“So I think my involvement is part of the changing world we live in,” the singer and actress, who speaks and sings Cantonese fluently, said.
“The Lunar New Year is part of the Chinese culture, its part of Hong Kong, not just to be on an advert but to be on a campaign is amazing,” the 32-year-old added.
Wellcome says its 2014 campaign is a mixture of choral music and rap as a “modern approach to present a Chinese tradition” featuring four up-and-coming celebrities from reality TV show The Voice of the Stars, in which Chamberlain finished third in the singing contest.
Julie Chiu Wai-ying, sales and marketing director of supermarkets under the Dairy Farm Group, said that the rapping approach would could give customers an unexpected pleasant surprise and excitement.
“We keep abreast of the latest trend of Hong Kong…[to develop] a unique and contemporary way of delivering a traditional greeting.”
Rupam Borthakur, regional managing director of global advertising research group Millward Brown, said businesses felt pressured by the need to stand out among the numerous Lunar New Year campaigns developed drive sales during a short period of time.
“Where this ad might work well is in reminding people of Wellcome during the Lunar New Year. But what it lacks is a story uniquely linked to the brand,” Borthakur said.
He said usual Lunar New Year advertisements portrayed family reunions, gift giving or sharing with others, played out with lashings of the colour red, lai see, fireworks or gold ingots.
But with all the campaigns looking similar, audiences would not easily link the brands to the advertisements.