Apple Says, 'Be Yourself' in Sweet Lunar New Year's Tale

An annual 'Shot on iPhone' tradition

For its annual "Shot on iPhone" Lunar New Year campaign, Apple offers a simple message with profound implications.

Though lush, the nearly 16-minute film from TBWA\Media Arts Lab Shanghai and A-List Hollywood director Marc Webb tells a smaller, more personal story than some past LNY campaigns. Last year's operatic frills are gone, succeeded by a contemporary tale featuring an awkward schoolgirl and her doting grandfather.

"It's my face. It's weird. No one will ever like me," young Wei laments, as she admires airbrushed, finely coiffed fashion models.

Gramps, of course, loves her as she is. "Just be yourself," he advises.

After she's teased at school—classmates call her "Garlic Nose"—and Wei laments: "I want to be anyone! Anyone but me!"

Soon, that wish comes true.

The kid hides in a cabinet ... and emerges as an outwardly different person, rocking a face and body she'd rather inhabit. In fact, Wei can morph into anyone, male or female, of any age, and she delights in this "superpower." (Who wouldn't?)

All of this takes place early on. And though we can tell where the narrative's going, it takes some intriguing twists as our heroine grows up and heads to the big city.

Over time, she feels lost as her hyper-idealized selves take control. They're not who she really is, deep down. And living a lie takes its toll.

In the end, it's all about self-acceptance, with Grandpa's homemade steamed buns providing symbolic food for thought.

We're treated to impressive cinematic scope, as we've come to expect from Apple's LNY offerings. But Webb smartly focuses on the human story amid a maze of skyscrapers and midtown bustle.

"Doing these quick shape-shifts, the camera has to be fast enough to hide the transitions," he says in the making-of clip below. "We actually designed these shots to make it more interesting and see how far we can push the camera."

It's a grand-scale iPhone 15 Pro Max product demo, sumptuously shot and soundtracked. In other words: exactly what we've come to expect from Apple in these annual outings.

The main cast excels, giving immensely relatable performances. Cheng Zi Xia (Young Wei) effortlessly channels sadness, joy, hope and shame. As the character's twenty-something incarnation, Liu Yi Yi combines naiveté and world weariness as her character succumbs to the anxiety of the urban grind. Fan Wei's Grandpa is basically everyone's idealized guide through life. He's wise and patient but with a spark of mischief, too.

Their work bridges cultures and generations. You don't have to read subtitles to understand what's going on.

Despite the fantasy elements, the story's pretty straightforward. Trimming a few minutes might've heightened its impact. (How many prospective employers reject Wei? And please, no more clubbing!)

But that's a minor quibble, and the project has much to say about the contemporary zeitgeist and tech's place in our daily lives.

There's no fresh insight, but that's OK. We get a moving meditation on the modern scene, which Apple, of course, has helped shape for the past 40 years.

Essentially, the players—and by extension, all of us—live in a reality made, in large part, by Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and the rest. (Heck, even this commercial was made on an iPhone.)

Here, one of those tech giants hypes its wares while reminding us to stay connected with our innermost feelings and aspirations.

The irony, of course, is that such wares can foster disconnection and isolation. But we've come too far to turn back.

Digital screens are mirrors that reveal the world's endless permutations and possibilities. Ultimately, they show us ourselves.


Agency: TBWA\Media Arts Lab Shanghai 
Production: Radical US, M Production Shanghai
Director: Marc Webb
Screenwriter: Pan Yiran
Art Director: Li Anran
Director of Photography: Cecile Zhang
Music: Varqa Buehrer

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