For Japanese advertisers, the buzz is priceless
BY KANAME KAKUTA STAFF WRITER
Ultraman Zero is proving to be an effective "sales manager." (The Asahi Shimbun)
Interested in a part-time job that pays 2.5 million yen ($30,500) per hour for delivering a pizza to a remote island by plane?
Too good to be true?
Yes and no. While the job offer was right on the money, it was only a one-time deal, or rather, a one-pizza delivery. Job security was clearly not on the menu.
But no one cared about the downside, and thousands applied for the job. And that was the point--the campaign generated massive publicity for the pizza company.
While companies have long employed quirky advertising tactics and seemingly overgenerous rewards to entice customers via print media or broadcasting, the advent of online services such as Twitter have spawned extreme, sometimes off-the-wall campaigns.
Company officials say that unlike traditional advertising mediums, online services provide an opportunity to reach millions of consumers at very little cost. The savings, they say, allow them to use their ad budgets for even more high-profile, at times, hair-raising stunts.
To celebrate its 25th anniversary in Japan, Domino's Pizza Japan Inc. announced in October that it would offer 2.5 million yen to anyone willing to take up an "extremely short-term, part-time job lasting only one hour" in December.
The actual job was cleverly kept secret, and the company said only those who were selected following a screening process would be notified about what the job entailed.
The high-paying mystery job offer quickly went viral, spreading over the blogosphere and the Twitterverse after it was reported on TV and Internet news sites.
More than 10,000 applications flooded Domino's. At last, a 53-year-old woman from Miyazaki Prefecture was hired. Her assignment: Pick up a pizza from a Domino's in Tokyo's Mitaka, hop on a flight to Izu-Oshima island, and deliver it to a waiting customer.
Ecstatic company officials said they were overwhelmed by response.
"While the 2.5 million yen was like a reward, the advertising effect was much larger than any ad campaign costing 2.5 million yen," said a company official.
Traditional newspaper or TV advertisements can reach the range of hundreds of million yen, including production costs.
"Free advertising" is the holy grail for companies. Creating a campaign that gets mentioned on the Internet rockets PR officials into a state of bliss. The buzz effect is compounded when TV and newspaper reporters pick up the trail.
Nihon Kraft Foods Ltd. held a 2-million yen sweepstakes to mark the nationwide launch of Stride gum in November. What set it apart from other campaigns was that it was a winner-take-all contest, unlike everyday sweepstakes which dole out small amounts to a large number of winners.
"We figured that giving one person 2 million yen would create a bigger buzz than dividing up the money among 200 people," a spokesperson for the processed food company said.
Another food firm, Meiji Dairies Corp., enlisted TV superhero, Ultraman Zero.
Appointed as a "special sales manager" in December, the latest Ultraman's image can be found plastered on packages of yogurt and pudding products targeted at children.
The campaign is a twofer--Ultraman's hawking of Meiji's dairy dessert products also serves to promote the superhero's latest movie.
Again, information technology played a crucial role, as purchasers of the dairy products can obtain discount coupons for the Ultraman movie or original ring tones by scanning QR (quick response) codes printed on the packages with their cellphone cameras.
This synergy greatly reduced the cost of using the popular superhero in the ad campaign, Meiji officials said.
Hidehiko Sekizawa, a professor at Tokyo Keizai University who specializes in corporate advertising, said that online services have greatly expanded advertising possibilities.
"While people have sought out topics of conversation for ages, social networking services and Twitter have helped spread such information across society."