Nezha: Why American brands need to pay attention to the animated movie that beat Avengers in China

(Spoilers ahead).

The answer is simple. By understanding Nezha, you can get an insight into Chinese Millennials and Gen Z, whether in China, the United States or elsewhere. Collectively, they are the single largest consumer group powering the engine that drives global consumption forward.

Nezha is an animated fantasy movie based loosely on the story of the eponymous hero – a well-known young rebel from Chinese mythology. Though the story is ancient, the movie is nothing but modern and imaginative – with elaborate visual effects, electrifying music, humorous dialogue and numerous references from pop culture.

Released in China this past July, Nezha has earned over $669 million in less than 40 days, becoming the 2nd highest-grossing film of all time in China – beating the Chinese box office record for The Lion King, Toy Story 4 and Marvel’s Avengers: Endgame. Critically, it has won the hearts of millions, receiving rave reviews and scoring a high 8.6 on Douban, the largest movie review website in China.

With an IMAX premier in a small number of theaters, Nezha finally hit the U.S. on August 29th. Movie tickets, as expected, were quickly sold out. Theaters were filled with the laughter, tears and applause of young Chinese Americans, both working professionals and students.

How did Nezha become such a phenomenal success, resonating with Chinese worldwide? There are the two likely reasons.

As a new interpretation of an old story, it captures the zeitgeist of China.

“I am the master of my own fate”, a line delivered by Nezha in the final battle of the movie, says it all.
In the past, the story of the holy child-god Nezha, has repeatedly appeared in Chinese movies, dramas and animation, but the 2019 version largely reinvents the narrative and adds more complexity and twists to the storyline and characters. Instead of a god, Nezha is born predestined to be a demon and constantly fights against prejudice and social exclusion. In addition, instead of killing his rival, the Dragon Prince, Nezha becomes friends with him and together the two young characters fight against their set destinies.

Yes, there’s a lot of fighting and overcoming obstacles in Nezha, and these plot-points precisely manifest the indomitable and optimistic spirit of young Chinese born in the 80s’ and 90s’; a generation raised during China’s economic rise, technological innovation and entrepreneurship boom – a generation granted unprecedented chances for upward mobility. Like Nezha, they have a sharp desire for personal actualization that reflects in their quest for success.

“In reality, many young people are breaking down outside limits and prejudices.” said director Jiaozi, in an interview explaining why Nezha is clicking with young Chinese.

Critics at The Los Angeles Times’s also added, “Residing just beneath all the visual razzle dazzle is a stirring message of empowerment.”

It is a coming-of-age story of a Chinese hero.

Not Spiderman, Simba nor Chihiro. Nezha’s story is a Chinese one, derived from The Investiture of the Gods, a 16th century Chinese novel that combines elements of history, folklore, mythology and fantasy.
Don’t get me wrong, animations from Hollywood and Japan are well-loved in China, but the young generation craves for more. Emboldened by their rising cultural confidence, they seek vivid revivals of Chinese cultural icons on the silver screen.

The movie industry answered the demand. Released in 2015, Monkey King: Hero Is Back is wildly regarded as the beginning of “the return of Chinese animation”. Now with Nezha’s startling success, Chinese anime creators are rolling out an ambitious plan – in the post credits of Nezha, a teaser of an upcoming animated movie features the story of Ziya Jiang, another fictional hero from The Investiture of the Gods. This sneak preview is creating enormous buzz for Chinese moviegoers and indicates the formation of what the fans called “The Universe of Chinese Mythology”.

So, why does this matter to American brands?

For brands that want to tap into China or the growing Chinese American market, understanding the target consumer mentality and demand is critical, and Nezha’s success gives us an interesting lens to witness the confidence and aspirations of this new generation.

The rise of entertainment originating from Asia is as impactful to today’s young Chinese as representation in Hollywood, and only content that is truly culturally authentic can create effective resonance and engagement. Face-swapping or stiff adaptations from general market campaigns simply don’t work. Brands need to keep up with the changing reality and craft insightful campaigns.

After all, no one would want to miss out a consumer segment that owns staggering buying power – with only a limited run across 66 IMAX theaters, Nezha’s opening weekend in the U.S. managed to rake in $1.19 million with a stellar per-theater average of $18,061, the highest among all films playing in the U.S. on five or more screens. All credit goes to Chinese Americans.

Brands, take note.

Written by
Selina Guo
Planning Director

Maoyan, China’s box office ranking
Review: Chinese animation box-office sensation ‘Ne Zha’ brings empowering message to America, LA Times, 8/29/2019
Chinese Blockbuster ‘Ne Zha’ Nets Stellar $18,000-Per-Theater In U.S. Launch, Cartoonbrew, 9/2/2019
China Focus: Animated film “Ne Zha” becomes smash hit in China, Xinhuanet, 7/31/2019

Photo credit: Well Go USA


A Letter from our Co-Founder

Fellow film geeks:

I had a chance to see Awkwafina in The Farewell this weekend and it was just another (tear-jerking) reminder that Asian Americans are on a roll. Starting with last year’s Crazy Rich Asians on the big screen, the roster continues to grow: NBC’s A Little Late with Lilly Singh, the much-anticipated Mulan, and Marvel’s Shang-Chi, starring the first-ever Asian lead for the franchise.

The rise of Asian cultural movements is piquing the interest of people everywhere. We are often asked by clients and colleagues, “can an ad segmented for Asian Americans also play in general market?” The answer is an emphatic, “yes”. Whether it be cosplay, cricket, e-sports, foodies, nerd-life, or lux-life, we enjoy finding the subtle, yet impactful, ways humans find common ground. It is a nuanced balancing act – supplying the authenticity of our core heritage and culture while communicating in a universal voice.


Speaking of action movies, we’ve also been dabbling in the realm of superheroes. Our latest TVC campaign featured Asian American cosplayers in full warrior gear. I can’t help but admit I got a thrill out of being a part of a project that has Asian Americans representing heroic and strong characters – even when it’s rubber swords and replica helmets. Asians & Asian Americans are finally getting the roles and recognition they have long deserved. It’s about time.

And we’ve been rewarded with success. We’ve run our campaigns in theaters nationwide in front of Spider-man: Far from Home, on Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim, and on live-streaming platform, Twitch. The Asian American story CAN be anyone’s story.

Admerasia proclaims itself as an “&” agency. We do more than ad. We connect.


I’ve come to embrace the &. I started off life as a boy, as Chinese. I grew into an immigrant, an American. Sometimes it felt like I had to choose between my identities, that they were in conflict. But as I grew, instead of cutting things out of my life, I added to the list of the things that made me who I am. I &.

This & approach to life is how we operate here at Admerasia. Barriers, lanes, human constructs – we do not adhere to. We do not believe our stories are limited. We do not believe our voices stop at the borders of Chinatown or Jersey City. We do believe in &. It’s that foundational belief that carries our ads across continents, into your home.

I hope this tale of Awkwafina & Identity & Brand Craft has inspired you to put a little & into your day. Limits aren’t for us. We can be Asian & American & Asian American.

See you at the movies.


Jeff Lin
Co-Founder of Admerasia&
Soccer Enthusiast&
Wine Collector.


韩流来袭 引爆多元文化抬头





正如30多年前,马当娜以其独树一帜的风格席卷全球音乐市场,许多连英文都说不了二句的年轻人,却能朗朗唱出马当娜的每一首招牌歌曲一般,如今的韩流,不过是文化超越地域界限的另一实例,唯一不同的是,随通讯技术的发达及亚洲 (尤其是中国)经济的崛起,预期我们将会见到更多亚洲品牌走上世界舞台,并成为文化主流。资深广告行销人,同时也是全美最大亚裔广告公司负责人Zan Ng就大胆预测,从行销角度看来,我们未来针对的将不再是亚裔市场、拉丁裔市场、或非裔美人市场,我们所见到的肤色将不足以定义市场区隔,因为多元化才将是主流市场。

PeiWen Shih
alanguagebank 联合创始人

From Spider-man to Cosplay: How the Superhero Industry is Learning from Spider-Man’s Filipino-American Sidekick

(Admerasia prides itself on giving its youngest team members a chance to be heard. Today, we’re featuring an original article by our summer intern, Sarina Santiago, 21, Boston University, Major Business Administration, Minor Communications.)

How the Superhero Industry is Learning from Spider-Man’s Filipino-American Sidekick

Batalon as Ned Leeds in Spider-Man: Homecoming Photo credit: Spider-Man: Homecoming

Just when you think you’ve mentally recovered from the epic Avengers: Endgame, it’s time to watch the anticipated Spider-Man: Far from Home. While we’re all familiar with the star of the film, Tom Holland, let’s draw our attention to his dorky, loveable sidekick, Ned Leeds, played by Jacob Batalon. Though he is known as a tech genius and “the guy in the chair”, Leeds is sparking conversation and rapidly gaining exposure for being the first Filipino-American in the Marvel Universe franchise.

Batalon, raised by Filipino parents in Hawaii, landed his first major acting role as Peter Parker’s best friend just before he graduated college. The original character, Ned Leeds, was inspired by the early comic book version who is described as a Caucasian reporter from the Daily Bugle. However, the film’s director, Jon Watts, didn’t want to replicate the character’s physical qualities and instead opted for a more diversified lineup. Replacing the white Ned Leeds with a Filipino-American, as well as casting actors and actresses like Zendaya and Tony Revolori, the new Spider-Man school setting reflects a more realistic version of a diverse high school student body found in Queens, New York.

Ned Leeds has quickly become a fan-favorite. His genuine, gleeful reaction to Peter Parker revealing his identity captures the moment perfectly because, let’s be honest, that’s how we would react if our best friend was Spider-Man. More importantly, the charming character appeals to the Asian-American audiences as Ned is a crucial asset to Spider-Man’s missions. Playing the sidekick as a Filipino-American actor paves the way to a more inclusive casting in the superhero industry.

Jacob Batalon (left) and Tom Holland (right), playing Peter Parker, in Spider-Man: Homecoming Photo credit: Spider-Man: Homecoming

In the superhero industry, Pan-Asian diversity has always been lacking. However, with recent castings of Jon Cho (Star Trek), Gemma Chan (Captain Marvel), and Benedict Wong (Doctor Strange) other Asian characters are joining the fray. In fact, Marvel is set to release a five-part comic book this summer featuring Asian and Asian-American superheroes called “Agents of Atlas”. The lineup of powerful heroes includes characters from Korean, Filipino, and Chinese backgrounds who, besides from saving the world, enjoy everyday activities like karaoke and eating dim sum.

The front cover of the first issue of “Agents of Atlas”. Photo credit: Marvel Comics

Moreover, production has been approved for the first Marvel superhero film featuring an Asian protagonist called Shang-Chi. The movie will follow a similar framework to Black Panther’s, with an emphasis on cultural cohesiveness in order to promote a proper image of Asian characters. Currently, the production process of Shang-Chi is moving slowly, with the main news that they have hired both Dave Callaham of The Expendables as the script writer and Destin Daniel Cretton of Captain Marvel as the director. Though it’s too early in the production process for casting, the internet has casted five Chinese actors that can potentially play the leading role.

Shang-Chi is a Chinese martial arts master who channels his abilities through his chi. Photo credit: Marvel Comics

It’s highly important for the superhero industry to evolve and adopt an inclusive cast. Superheroes become icons and are idolized by children growing up. How can a child relate to a character that doesn’t share the same culture as them?

But superheroes don’t just end in the comic book universe. Online gaming and cosplay is a major part of Asian-American culture yet is still lacking in a diverse representation. The new State Farm “Peaceful Resolutions” features cosplayers as Phoenix and Battlefire – two strong Asian-American warriors who face-off in a battle. Admerasia selected cosplayers to appeal to the Asian-American audience because cosplaying and cosplay conventions are major parts of the culture. It was also important to highlight strong, powerful characters that are able to put aside their differences to achieve their mission – in this case, the two cosplayers split a cab to drive to the convention center. This commercial is making a dual-debut on Spider-Man: Far from Home and Cartoon Network’s series, Adult Swim. Though there are major efforts in promoting diversity in the superhero industry, there is still a long way to go as Asian-Americans prove that they are more than “the guy in the chair”.

Written by:
Sarina Santiago
Creative Intern

E-Sports Have Taken Over!

(Admerasia prides itself on giving its youngest team members a chance to be heard. Today, we’re featuring an original article by our summer intern, Phillip Wong, 20,Wesleyan University, Major Economics, Minor Quantitative Analysis & East Asian Studies.)

The Advent of E-Sports and its Future

Growing up, I fondly remember countless hours poured into various games like Zelda: Ocarina of Time and Super Smash Bro’s: Melee. Video games instilled a new way for me to view the world and taught me various life-long lessons ranging from practical, logic thinking skills to cultivating a competitive spirit. However, in today’s society, video games are being shed in a new light. Nowadays, video games are not only just a place for little kids to explore virtual dimensions; rather, video games now contribute a massive market and following that should be noticed and watched carefully.

League of Legends GamePlay 2019

League of Legends is Legendary

Back in 2013, during the initial boom of free to play MMO’s (massively multiplayer online games), League of Legends was gaining traction as the game of the future. Featuring up to date graphics, a large player base, as well as fair, balanced game mechanics, League of Legends was a game where skill was the only thing that mattered. And that specifically drew people into the game! It was free, fun, and also extremely competitive. The most skilled players climbed the leaderboards and joined professional teams to prove their worth on the national and international stage. As a young kid, it was thrilling to see the best of the best from all over the world duke it out at the Season 3 League of Legends World Championships. In fact, it was this tournament that held the first ever prize of a million USD!1 I remember the Finals as if it was yesterday: it was between Korea’s heavyweight favorite SKTT1 and China’s underdog hopeful Royal Club. SKTT1, led by the world’s unanimous best player Faker (Lee Sang Hyeok), squared up against the young Royal Club squad led by the 16-year-old Uzi (Jian Zi Hao). Though Royal Club would get swept 3-0, it was the beginning of stardom for both teams as they returned to their home countries with prizes and honor in tow.

South Korean Gamer – Faker – Lee Sang-hyeok endorsing Telecom’s new iPhone.

Gamers are Celebrities

Following their victory during the World Championships, SKTT1 returned to Korea as stars rather than just professional video game players. By winning Worlds, the Korean team was welcomed back with open arms from hordes of fans and paparazzi. The transition from nerdy video game players to superstars was seamless; sponsors jumped at every opportunity to get the young fresh faces onto large screens throughout Seoul. In fact, Faker was immediately used in an advertisement for SK Telecom’s new iPhone during the time.2 This is a huge deal; normally in Korea, advertisements are reserved for famous idols and actors, but with Faker at the head of an ad, it proved that he was finally now a national icon.

China’s LPL and Nike Partnership

E-Sports Arrives in the West

Now, fast forward 6 years, and the same sort of culture has reached the Western hemisphere. Pro gamers are finally getting some recognition, with big names like Stephen Curry and Andre Iguodala (current NBA players) throwing heavy investments their way.3 North American players nowadays are filled with sponsors that are household names: Honda, Monster Energy, AT&T, as well as Red Bull. Riot Games, the developer of League of Legends, have recently franchised both their NALCS and EULCS (professional leagues in both North America and Europe) leagues, requiring teams to pay an entry fee of 10 million dollars.4 Meanwhile in China, Nike just reached out to sponsor the newly franchised LPL (League Pro League) because of the wide range of consumers that watch E-Sports. In fact, Uzi, the young gun during the 2013 World Championships, has seen his influence grow to the point that he was even invited to participate in Lebron James’ “Dribble &” campaign.5

Gamer Uzi (Jian Zi Hao) and Lebron James featured in Nike’s “Dribble &” Campaign

New superstar-like influencers are popping up all over the map, except this time, they aren’t who you expect. E-Sports is the new wave of the future: the market is explosively growing and if you’re not on board yet, you should be.

By Phillip Wong
Admerasia Intern Summer 2019

Article Sources:
1“Season 3 World Championship.” Leaguepedia | League of Legends Esports Wiki, Gamepedia, 30 May 2019,
2“’Faker’ 이상혁 선수, SK텔레콤 아이폰5s 이벤트에 등장!” ‘Faker’ 이상혁 선수, SK텔레콤 아이폰5s 이벤트에 등장! – 인벤, Inven, 24 Oct. 2013,
3SportsTechie July 26, 2018
4ESPN June 1st, 2017
5Fox Sports Asia Oct, 2018

Exclusive Preview: The Cross-Cultural and Influential Asian American Beauty Shopper

While the Asia Pacific region is the largest beauty and personal care market in the world, in the U.S., Asian Americans have also risen to become a leading consumer force that drives exciting growth and change in the beauty market.

Asian Americans over-spend in almost all beauty categories – 70% more than the average share of the U.S. population on skincare, just for example. At the same time, K-beauty and J-beauty brands have brought numerous novel beauty concepts and products from Asia to the U.S. that are shaping the way America treats its skin.

Yet, there’s barely any research information on Asian American beauty shoppers, which handicaps beauty brands from understanding the needs and wants of this dynamic consumer group. Admerasia is the nation’s first to conduct a set of comprehensive research studies that laser focuses on the mentalities and behaviors of today’s Asian American beauty shopper. The study includes a nationwide online survey that covers the largest Asian American ethnic groups such as Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Asian Indian and Filipino, as well as 2 consumer focus groups and 4 interviews with Asian American beauty influencers and industry experts. Results of our study vividly illustrate how Asian Americans’ bilingual cross-cultural identity and rising cultural confidence define their aesthetics and beauty shopping preferences.

Here is a preview of some interesting findings:

– Close to 90% of Asian American beauty shoppers rate beauty retailers (e.g. Sephora) as their top beauty shopping channel because of product variety, generous refund policy and widespread retail locations.

– Product endorsement from Asian influencers and product placement in Asian entertainment are highly important sources that trigger Asian Americans’ buying interests.

– The 5 most trending beauty ingredients among Asian American beauty shoppers are vitamin C, collagen, enzyme, green tea and argan oil; demonstrating their strong demand for anti-aging effects and affinity to Asian cultural traditions and skincare routines.

– When it comes to skin tone, 64% of recent Asian immigrants prefer a radiant ivory complexion while 71% American-born Asians prefer a healthy tan, reflecting the cultural nuances between East and West beauty aesthetics.

– 61% have their hair dyed, with ombre brunette being the favorite color scheme. However, blond is particularly prevalent among American-born Asians, typically as a visual statement for breaking stereotypes and standing out from the crowd.

These statistics are only a tip the iceberg of our research findings. If you are interested in accessing the full report or discovering opportunities for how your brand can capture this audience group (a truly lucrative business opportunity!), please drop an email at We would love to chat!

Written by Selina Guo
Planning Director

Admerasia Takes Home Gold and Silver at 3AF

At this year’s Asian American Advertising Federation (3AF) Marketing Summit in Los Angeles, Admerasia swept up TWO Creative Campaign of the Year awards: State Farm’s Asian TV commercial “Smart Living” was awarded Gold, while Twin Marquis’ web series “Yum Chat” took home Silver.

Julia Kang, Account Director, spoke on behalf of Admerasia, “It’s a true honor to be recognized from the 3AF organization as we continue to tell impactful stories that can empower and positively influence the Asian American community and beyond. We constantly strive and hustle to think outside of the box and explore bold ideas for our market to become part of a greater conversation.”

Congratulations to our team and partners at State Farm and Twin Marquis. We could not be more proud!

Admerasia Speaks at Asia Society Summit

The 2019 Diversity and Marketing Leadership Summit, hosted by Asia Society, was an enlightening and educational exploration on the ascending Asian American consumer. We learned so much from trailblazing leaders in business including those women who push back on the ceiling. One of the reoccurring takeaways from the summit was diversity – learning the nuances that every culture and people express which will create more authentic connections. Try something, take bold steps, use failure as a learning tool, and lead in trends, not follow.

As the grand finale of the two days festivities, our co-founder, Jeff Lin, moderated panel, Women Executive Leadership: The Power and Rise of the Asian Consumer: Transforming the Way We Do Business with Jennifer Hsieh, Marriot International, Chloe Lim, Facebook Singapore, and Tina Mahal, PepsiCo.Our. The panel discussed such topics as breaking through both Asian and American barriers, the staggering buying power of Asian American consumers, and where we’re headed in the future. They enjoyed their discussion over a bottle of Art Bus Red from woman-owned, La Sirena Wines, who’s owner, Heidi Barrett, is one of California’s leading local winemakers.

We are incredibly grateful to Asia Society for having us and look forward to more collaboration in the years to come.

Asia Society is the leading educational organization dedicated to promoting mutual understanding and strengthening partnerships among peoples, leaders and institutions of Asia and the United States in a global context. Across the fields of arts, business, culture, education, and policy, the Society provides insight, generates ideas, and promotes collaboration to address present challenges and create a shared future.

Admerasia Goes to Washington

From Left to Right: Eric Chuang (Digital), Yashica Dutt (Creative), XiaoHwa Ng (Strategy) Max Davidson (Integrations)

We had a fantastic time at the Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) Gala in Washington DC. We witnessed inspiring messages from our country’s leaders matched with ambitious and intelligent young Asian Americans who, one day, will lead this country as well. Speakers included, US Senator Tammy Duckworth of IL, Rep. Ted Lieu of CA, and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, not to mention a long roster of fantastic individuals paving the way for Asian representation. We had a chance to shake hands with some amazing folks pushing forward representation and diversity in industries across America.

We thank APAICS for having us and look forward to spreading their message all year round.

The Asian Pacific American Institute for Congressional Studies (APAICS) is a national non-partisan, nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to promoting Asian Pacific American participation and representation at all levels of the political process, from community service to elected office.



Our New State Farm Campaign Speaks Cricket to its South Asian Audience

State Farm’s latest campaign is about cricket, but not like you’ve seen it before.

South Asians loving cricket is hardly a secret. Introduced to the subcontinent by the British, it’s now one of the most popular sports in the region and most South Asians, whether in United States or back home, grow up watching or playing cricket. So, it’s no surprise that the sport is on top of most marketers’ playbook when trying to reach out to South Asians, and in particular, an Indian audience. Especially, in time for the Cricket World Cup – it’s few weeks away and happens once every four years – a marketing game plan to channel the excitement and energy that comes with the tournament is a win-win.

That’s why when it came to crafting a theme for this year’s State Farm campaign, we decided to turn to this sport that echoes with so many Indians and their emotions. But instead of engaging with tired or overdone tropes we’ve seen many times before, we hit upon an insight that most Indians in the U.S. can relate with: rooting for your favorite cricket team while living in a country where, for most people, cricket is an insect that refuses to be quiet at night. For its fans, each cricket season comes with a reminder that being a fan of the sport in the U.S. can sometimes be a challenge. Our newly launched State Farm spots, Cricket Crashes and Commercial Breaks, engage with that distinct longing for your fandom — something rarely expressed in either mainstream or multicultural advertising – with humor and empathy. Both ads feature Jinisha Patel, a real-life State Farm agent who understands Asian Indians’ love for cricket and that you can’t miss a single second of a match, especially when India is batting.

Cricket Crashes, the 30s spot, brings to life a distinctive yet familiar story of Ankur, a cricket fan who misses watching cricket with his friends in India. With humor, the ad plays up his predicament of being a cricket fan in the U.S. Everyone in his new home seems to watch either baseball or basketball, in stark comparison to India where cricket is practically a religion. Served with a healthy side of nostalgia, this spot takes the viewer on Ankur’s journey to search out fans who love cricket as much he does.

Commercial Breaks focuses on an intense, yet completely relatable, aspect of being a cricket fan — taking calls only when the commercials are on. The unique 15s ad tells another amusing story when Ankur has ‘literally seven seconds before the commercials end’ to speak to his State Farm agent – a rather meta take on commercial breaks told through… a commercial. However, Jinisha Patel, the real-life State Farm agent, is here to help in whatever way is needed, even if that means getting straight to the point.

In Commercial Breaks, Jinisha understands why cricket fan, Ankur, can’t talk on the phone when the game is on and in Cricket Crashes, she recognizes how the first cricket season away from home can be tough. She does more than help you through your insurance needs – she gets you.

Cricket has always been a direct and rather effortless way to connect to Indians. But despite its ubiquity in multicultural marketing, there are still ways to keep it fresh and interesting. Our latest State Farm campaign is a case in point.

Yashica Dutt
Associate Creative Director