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Dogs, monsters, red envelopes and possibly the biggest spending spree in the world; some 200 million Chinese will go into celebration mode this February for Chinese New Year. Where will they go, what will they be buying and how should advertisers prepare?

A holiday full of history and tradition

This year’s Chinese New Year (CNY) falls on February 16th and it will be celebrated by over fifth of the world’s population, probably making it the biggest celebration in the world. As the most important Chinese holiday it reflects the start of the new lunar year. People will travel far and wide to reunite, honour ancestors and celebrate unity and family.  This is a time for traditional celebrations, including fireworks, lavish banquets and gift (and money!) giving.

A child-eating Monster

Originating during the Shang Dynasty (17th - 11th century BC), the New Year festival represented the fight against "Nian" - a monster who ate livestock and children. But the monster was afraid of loud sounds the colour red so to this day, red and gold are considered lucky colours during the holiday and revellers set off firecrackers and fireworks to frighten away evil spirits.

The Red Envelopes

The most recognised tradition of the New Year festival is probably hong-bao - the giving of red packets.  Parents and grandparents give children red envelopes stuffed with money where amounts are often made up of the digits 6 and 8, which are considered lucky. However, even this centuries-old tradition is evolving and packets these days are mostly sent electronically and via Apps like the WeChat Red Envelope app.

The Year of the Dog

February 16th will mark the beginning of the Year of The Dog - the eleventh animal in Chinese zodiac and a symbol of loyalty and honesty. Those born under this sign are said to possess the best traits of human nature: honesty, friendliness, faithfulness, loyalty, intelligence, venerability and a strong sense of responsibility.
Chinese New Year Zodiac Animals Wheel, JCDecaux Blog
Find out your Chinese Zodiac Animal

The largest movement of people in the world 

Chinese New Year is the longest Chinese public holiday, businesses close and most workers take at least a week’s holiday. People often choose to leave the city where they work and study and travel back to their home towns. With over 200 million simultaneously on the move (some 4% of the world’s population), the result is one of the largest domestic movements of people anywhere in the world. Transport is strained to breaking point, train tickets sell at a rate of 1,000 per second and massive traffic jams block roads across the country.
The China State Council estimates that the Chinese make 3 billion trips during the holiday period:
  • 2.5bn by land
  • 356m by rail
  • 58m by plane
  • 42m by sea
Tourism brands celebrate Chinese New Year and promote travel, Wynn, Macau Airport
Tourism brands celebrate Chinese New Year and promote travel, Wynn, Macau Airport
The total distance of trips adds up to about 1.2 billion kilometres – that is the same as a trip to Saturn!

During the New Year, families increasingly take the opportunity to visit tourist spots around China with 344 million trips taken in 2017 (+13.8% on 2016). Reflectively, tourism spending is also growing with over 423 billion yuan spent in 2017 (+15.9% on 2016). However, trips abroad are becoming increasingly popular especially among the younger population. Numbers are expected to grow 11% in 2018 to 7.6 million. Destinations with premium shopping are often the favourite with Asia hosting about 81% of trips, and that number is set to grow 13% in 2018 according to CiR.

Source: CIR Feb 2017 vs 2018

Favourite country destinations during Chinese new year:

  • Asia: Thailand, Japan, Hong Kong
  • Americas: USA
  • Europe: Russia, Germany, France, UK

A Spending Spree

The Chinese New Year marks a new beginning in China, which also means new things and new experiences; and this practice is growing. Last year, revellers spent 67.3 billion US dollars (domestically and abroad) - up a massive 48.1% compared to 2016. CNN reports that the Chinese are likely to have spent more than $100 billion on eating and shopping during the New Year week -almost twice as much as Americans spend during Thanksgiving.
CCB Bank custom campaign execution in Shanghai metro, JCDecaux China
CCB Bank custom campaign execution in Shanghai metro, JCDecaux China

Strategic and Co-ordinated OOH Messaging

The Chinese New Year is one of the two annual ‘Golden Weeks’ for commerce and brands build special advertising strategies throughout the event:

  • Long term brand building leading up to Chinese New Year
  • Top-of-mind awareness through frequency and mass reach
  • Storytelling, particularly effective if the stories tap into the traditional CNY themes of family, food and homecomings
  • ‘Real-life’ interaction with brands through special executions
  • Short term activation, strategically placed special offers and product launches
  • Presence in the last moments of influence through proximity placement
  • Co-ordinated message placement at different destinations for both domestic and international travellers

The variety of relevant environments such as airports and retail centres, allow brands to continuously reach consumers who are ready to spend. Advertisers are increasingly using data-driven Digital OOH to offer even more relevance through smart, responsive and engagement-driven messaging. Finally, global OOH helps build global brands through mass impact and seamless engagement opportunities at key destinations and at all touchpoints whether at home or abroad.
Interested in culture and traditions? Learn more about the Chinese New Year holiday!

Beijing Tourism, JCDecaux China 2017
Beijing Tourism, JCDecaux China 2017

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