A day like any other: Leng Suan Ling dwells on changing meaning of CNY

Key Takeaways

  • The classic Chongqing-founded toothpaste brand Leng Suan Ling enlists the help of renowned stage actor Pu Cunxin for this nostalgia-tinged Chinese New Year advert.
  • Against the backdrop of China’s rapid pace of development, the advert celebrates the abundance of happiness in modern life.
  • The advert draws a link between prosperity and healthy teeth through the idea of “desensitisation”, a play on Leng Suan Ling’s age-old tagline.

What makes the first day of the Lunar New Year special? The fact that it’s just like any other day, says Leng Suan Ling, China’s leading toothpaste brand for sensitive teeth and a holder of the rubber-stamped China Top Brand status since 2002.

Leng Suan Ling was established in 1987 in Chongqing, a Western China metropolis best known for its numbingly spicy flavours. Perhaps inspired by the hot cuisine of the region, Leng Suan Ling’s marketing angle has always been that with its products, you can eat anything you wish without fear of toothache – cold, hot, sweet, or sour, happy year after year (“冷热酸甜,幸福年年”).

For its 2024 Chinese New Year campaign, the classic brand enlisted the help of another cultural icon – Pu Cunxin, China’s most well-recognised stage actor. Pu lends his dulcet tones to this 4-minute advert that tugs on the heartstrings by reminding viewers just how much China has changed.

Then vs Now: Rationing happiness for Chinese New Year

These slices of life show how economic development has washed away the scarcity mindset

In the opening shots of the advert, the 70-year-old actor pores over the pages of a photo album, and the viewer is transported back in time to 1992, where a bustling and snow-dusted Beijing hutong gets ready for the arrival of a new year. Moving through a life-filled house, Pu tells how in those days every special piece of clothing, every treat was saved assiduously, only to be enjoyed on that one most important day of the year. In 1992, China’s economic miracle was just beginning and memories of widespread suffering were not so distant. “Back then, we were always worried happiness would run out, so we squirrelled it away and waited until New Year to finally unwrap it like a gift”.

Returning to the present day, we see family members video call via smartphones and a young couple reuniting, having travelled by plane for the umpteenth time. These slices of life are intended to show how economic and technological development has washed away the scarcity mindset of less prosperous times, making life’s most precious moments more abundant: “These days happiness is no longer a New Year’s treat, but instead an item of daily use.” Pu concludes that his generation’s greatest source of happiness is that happiness doesn’t have to be rationed out, but can be found everywhere “like the rainwater and air”.

The advert challenges the idea that being accustomed to something makes it less valuable to us

Finding beauty in the ordinary

In a time when the shine seems to have long worn off China’s economic miracle and many are positing that China will “get old before it gets rich”, it’s easy to feel nostalgic for the boom times of the 90s and early 2000s. Leng Suan Ling’s advert spins all that on its head. Conveyed effectively through the wisdom of a member of the older generation, this advert suggests we should recognise the objective richness of the present and see this as a cause for an inner, never-ending celebration.

Unexpectedly, this puts a positive spin on the idea of desensitisation, challenging the idea that being accustomed to something makes us feel it less keenly, or makes it less valuable. This is a clever conceptual play given that, as a brand specialising in anti-sensitivity toothpaste, Leng Suan Ling’s mission is to make sensations less intense, precisely so they can be enjoyed more.  The advert also describes happiness as a daily necessity or item of daily use (日用品). Again, Leng Suan Ling itself falls into this product category, so romanticising 日用品 as a metaphor for prosperity is an inventive way of enriching a seemingly mundane product with a much deeper meaning.

Ultimately, the advert is a return to the brand’s roots. Much as Leng Suan Ling has always wished you enjoy all of life’s flavours – cold, hot, sour or sweet – it wishes happiness accompany your every day, not just the first day of the year.