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How BMW China Gave Us Nothing but Sheer Joy


BMW’s Stephane Koeppel and TBWA’s Ronnie Wu talk about the joy of creating this light-hearted yet mind-blowing Lunar New Year campaign, writes LBB’s Zoe Antonov

How BMW China Gave Us Nothing but Sheer Joy

Nothing but sheer joy! This is what BMW China and TBWA\BOLT are promising customers in their newest Lunar New Year campaign. We are so used to talking about the trying times we’re living through, the unpredictability, the inability to connect with people as we used to, so ad world is really pushing in the opposite direction. This year’s Lunar New Year campaigns have all had a tinge of happiness, reconnection and overall giving audiences a sense of ‘everything will be okay’. And BMW have not shied away.

In fact, the car brand took it upon themselves to create a spot that will ring in our years for some time to come. It has nothing to do with heavy-hearted emotional family reunions, but touched on vibrancy, playfulness, bravery and power – all traits associated with the tiger. However, the campaign also plays into ‘Bao Ma’ the Chinese name for BMW, which means ‘Precious Horse’. The spot certainly succeeds in striking audiences with an element of surprise and a new perspective on the holiday, by “bringing together the dynamic and complementary characteristics of two animals”, explains Stephane Koeppel, vice president brand and marketing at BMW China.

By utilising various audio and visual elements and amplifying ‘Hu’ for Tiger in Chinese and ‘Ma’, the Precious Horse in Chinese, the ad gives audiences something to loop in their heads. With bold colours, mixed media and dream-like sequences, this TBWA spot is definitely not something we’d want to miss.

BMW’s Stephane Koeppel and Ronnie Wu, chief creative officer at TBWA China took LBB’s Zoe Antonov behind the scenes of this masterpiece to tell her more about how they achieved its high-energy mind-blowing visuals. 

LBB> What was the initial brief for the campaign and the first ideas surrounding it?

Stephane and Ronnie> For the 2022 Year of the Tiger campaign, sheer joy, which sits at the heart of BMW, was the starting point and emotion we wanted to share with the audience. We also wanted to add an element of surprise and veer away from seasonal campaign stereotypes of heavy-hearted emotional family reunions and Chinese New Year messages, to brighten and entertain, bringing a lighthearted smile to the audience wherever they are during this festive period. 

In short, it was an open brief to be bold and innovative, and we were inspired by the common dynamic traits of the tiger and the horse, which is reflected in the Chinese name of BMW.

LBB> The first thing that is striking about the ad is the music and sound effects. Tell me more about how you chose them?

Stephane and Ronnie> The combination of the Year of the Tiger and BMW conjure up a feeling of high energy, fast paced, mixed media, mind blowing visual journey filled with fun and unexpected content that the audience cannot stop watching.  Like a new music video release, we wanted the rhythm to be quick paced yet be simple to memorise, with rotations adding in new excitement that keep going on.

LBB> What about the mixed media throughout the ad? What was the aim behind the usage of it and was it difficult to achieve the overall look?

Stephane and Ronnie> The mixed media featured throughout the campaign was all part of our creative intent to be bold and innovative with the aim to create immediate consumer impact. The approach also extended beyond the creative work itself and into the channel media mix, which was simple; organic social channels WeChat, Weibo, Douyin (China’s TikTok) and Bilibili combined with big screens including Cinema. 
This proved highly effective and going beyond extremely strong engagement within social channels, people recorded the ad from Cinema and posted it to Douyin, creating never seen before social impact from large screens!  
In addition to being entertained, we also wanted people to talk about and engage with the campaign. The mixed media elements created interaction and engagement through not only discussion but allowed the audience to create their own versions of video, dance and memes from the base assets. 

LBB> We're not used to seeing this much weirdness and quirkiness from BMW ads. What made you choose the pop-art like visuals and the trippy internet humour for this one and what allowed that creative freedom?

Stephane and Ronnie> Being involved in pop culture elements is part of BMW China’s brand communication approach.

The traditional Chinese festival provided an opportunity to shake up the conventional cultural elements that could connect the brand with the audience simply, easily yet uniquely. This creative freedom was possible due to BMW’s strong brand positioning across China. The creative work reflected the brand’s attitude of being bold and courageous, which resonates with the younger generations in China and what they expect from a brand.

LBB> Not only is this type of ad not typical for BMW, but it isn't typical for Lunar New Year either, where most companies opt for family scenes and sitcom-like scenarios. How did you manage to capture the spirit of the Lunar New Year through this campaign while still making it unique?

Stephane and Ronnie> The approach can be summed up as “No tears, no pressure, nothing but sheer joy to welcome in the Year of the Tiger” from BMW, AKA the ‘Precious Horse’ in China. The spirit behind this approach to the Year of the Tiger was a totally unique way of celebrating the Lunar New Year, while being authentic and true to the BMW brand. This bold campaign celebrates some amazing results to date. This includes over 220M video views, the most ever viewed BMW content on Weibo, the most discussed BMW video on Douyin, and the brand’s most viewed and discussed content on Bilibili where it is notoriously difficult to create engagement, given the Gen Z profile audience and behaviour on the platform.

LBB> Tell us more about the animation process - there are a few different types of animation mixed and matched in the campaign, was this difficult to balance and did you work with a few animators to achieve this look?

Stephane and Ronnie> During the initial planning and brief stage, when working with the artists, we didn’t impose too many constraints, so the artists had a lot of space and freedom to create their Tiger and BMW art.  

When we reached the editing stages this process became incredibly important, and detailed, as it was necessary to control the rhythm of editing and music to create content that was highly memorable, vivid and remained in your head.

LBB> Were there any particularly challenging parts of the campaign? What about something particularly memorable?

Stephane and Ronnie> When we decided to adopt this creative idea and format, it became a massive co-creation effort. We connected with numerous artists with different areas of expertise in and outside China across multiple time zones. This was a fun yet challenging part of the campaign development.

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LBB Editorial, Wed, 16 Feb 2022 16:53:36 GMT