Image of a horse on grass

Translating Joy

BMW China

TBWA\Bolt Shanghai, TBWA\Juice Beijing


By utilizing a genuine AI translation error, ‘Translating Joy’ prompted people everywhere to say ‘BMW’ and send wishes to BMW during Chinese New Year, the busiest advertising period of the year.

The Challenge

During Chinese New Year, it is traditional to exchange auspicious messages with one another. One of the most common phrases used is ‘Bao Ma’, as ‘Bao’ translates to ‘Precious’ and signifies wealth and rarity, while ‘Ma’, meaning ‘Horse’, represents status and progress.

“Bao Ma” has such a deep cultural meaning that BMW chose it as its Chinese name. However, a funny thing happens when we ask AI what “Bao Ma” means today. Instead of a precious horse with roots in Chinese culture, AI describes “Bao Ma” as a luxury car brand from Germany!

The Solution

With this translation error, BMW has accidentally incorporated the car into traditional Chinese New Year scenes, hijacking popular New Year greetings. However, we decided to transform this ridiculous AI mistake into BMW’s “Translating Joy” campaign for the 2023 Chinese New Year. 

In addition to the social video, we released digital red packets, stickers, and memes online, as well as wall decorations and campaign-themed accessories offline. This got everyone wishing each other a BMW New Year!

The Results

Topic impressions on social and digital channels
Video views

“Translating Joy” was even more influential than the hugely successful “Nothing but Sheer Joy” campaign from 2022 and once again made BMW the most iconic and culturally resonant brand during Chinese New Year. It was chosen as one of the top five Chinese New Year campaigns by more than 20 Chinese and global press outlets.

“‘Translating Joy’ is a hilariously fun campaign about how a translation error can result in waves of joy. One of the most popular Chinese New Year wishes happens to include BMW’s Chinese name, and this campaign wishes everyone a prosperous new year in a uniquely BMW way.”

– Stephane Koeppel, Vice President Brand Marketing, BMW China


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