-- The promotional campaign "MAJOLICA MUSEUM" for MAJOLICA MAJORCA was held in the premises of the Tokyo Metro Shinjuku Station in February 2017. In this campaign, pillars equipped with digital signage systems, standing along the passageway, were used as showcases, and products emerged from the signage as three-dimensional images, resembling exhibits at a museum. This advertising method stirred up much talk. How did this project begin?
Yamura: MAJOLICA MAJORCA is a brand with a long history of about 15 years now, and the gradual increase in the age group of its fans has been an issue for us. Till now, the brand has continued to produce digital contents using the smartphone medium, such as the "Magical Dresser," where users submit photographs of their faces and receive in return caricature illustrations generated based on the worldview of MAJOLICA MAJORCA. However, we felt that there are limitations to what we can do within the interface of a smartphone's screen, and sensed that there was a need to embark on a new initiative. Accordingly, we decided on a new policy to reach out effectively to young people, which then led to the launch of this project.
-- In other words, a sense of impending crisis with regard to digital contents was the background leading to the conception of this project.
Yamura: Thanks to an interview we conducted with a group of young people about trendy contents, we came to the realization that the market was becoming saturated. Young people, in particular, are extremely critical of uninteresting contents, and have a strong tendency of disliking contents that feel like advertisements. In an environment where a wide variety of competing contents is present, several concerns have come to light, including whether the audience will quickly tire of contents made for the smartphone as we have always done, and whether we will be able to reach out successfully to our target consumer groups. In light of these considerations, BBmedia Inc., the production company that we partnered with for this project, proposed the idea of using "digital signage," which are the advertising frames for moving images set up at the station.
-- How did you come up with the "museum" concept?
Yamura: Firstly, there was the "magical feeling" that the brand has always placed great importance on. Our brand concept is for consumers to feel as wonderful as if they had put a magic spell on themselves, through the use of makeup, and we wanted to present this brand concept as an extraordinary museum that suddenly appears in the ordinary, everyday space of a station. In addition, we also wanted to use product packaging to trigger communication; based on a past survey, this is highly appraised by consumers.
Furthermore, we felt that it would be a waste to use the signage simply as a flat-surface advertising frame. Since they have been erected within a real space, we wondered if we could achieve a form of expression that intersects more with reality. Eventually, we arrived at the conclusion of using the "museum concept" in order to present our products properly, and to exhibit the "magical feeling" in a surprising format.
-- There are 35 signage surfaces on nine pillars at the site, and the passageway is used by more than 150,000 people per day. How did you feel about the characteristics of this place?
Yamura: The traffic volume, including young people, is overwhelming at this site, making it the ideal place for our objective in this campaign, which is to expand recognition and awareness among the young. In addition, when we decided to create a "brand experience" using the entire space, this site proved to be a miraculous solution that was perfect for this project, because as many as 35 signage frames are congregated in a single location. There are very few places, even in the world, where you will be able to find a space with so many signage frames brought together on a single site; moreover, there are as many as four frames set up on a single pillar.
-- It is truly a project that could not have been realized without the venue, isn't it?
Yamura: Before I was involved in the project, they had also played around with the idea of creating spaces in hotel rooms based on the brand's worldview, and selling these as accommodation packages for a limited period of time. We could say that the "MAJOLICA MUSEUM" campaign realized the "repackaging" of our tradition of focusing on inviting consumers to experience the brand through the use of digital technology.
-- Which were the aspects that you paid particular attention to when it came to the actual materialization of the project?
Yamura: We paid attention to applying the worldview of our brand and product packaging to every aspect of the project, even down to the smallest detail. For example, rather than designing only the contents for the signage screen, we wrapped the entire pillar with wallpaper carrying the brand's logo. We exhibited four items in this campaign, and the backdrops that we used for each product in the videos were covered with different wallpapers created specifically in association with the package design of the respective products. The spirit of the brand, which focuses on the tiny details, has been woven into every aspect of the project.
-- By diluting the physical properties of the actual pillars, you have enhanced the sense of magic.
Yamura: We also conducted many tests on how the products are viewed. We staged it by using two signage surfaces intersecting at right angles, such that the product would look three-dimensional and float above the surface of the frame. However, this is not how the product looks from all angles; instead, it appears to be three-dimensional only when viewed from a certain point, in a way resembling trompe l'oeil. To find out how we could make the product look beautiful, we even used unsophisticated methods such as producing a miniature pillar using tissue boxes, and putting smartphones inside the boxes (laughs). It was very difficult to determine the angles.
-- Yet, it is precisely the "encounter" with that one point of view that gives one the special sense of something out of the ordinary.
Yamura: In that aspect, we also made many fine adjustments on the site. Everyone in the team would meet at the station after the last train had departed, and conduct repeated checking and confirmation work at the site until the first train of the morning. In addition to ensuring that the products in the respective pillars were presented beautifully, it was also important to maintain the connection between the different pillars.
This is because for this project, we also created a mechanism where a bird flies around the eight pillars, based on the "MAJOLICA Bird" that is also depicted in the brand logo. When someone goes to the spot where the bird descends to and stops at, a QR code will appear. By following this QR code to the brand's website, users will then be able to play a "fortune-telling" game where they can find out which MAJOLICA MAJORCA products are suitable for them. This was created as a way of connecting a real-life experience with the virtual, but we also paid much attention to ensuring that the movements of the bird appear smooth.
-- Were there any difficulties in this attempt, which took place in a real space with many elements of uncertainty?
Yamura: Yes, there were. Most contents that are completed on a digital platform can be controlled; however, in this campaign, most of the factors were unpredictable, including the movements of people. Another point that we were concerned about was whether or not the set-up would obstruct the flow of pedestrians along the passageway of a station, where there is heavy pedestrian traffic.
Even so, that was the interesting aspect of the project. This was a so-called OOH (out-of-home advertising), but in the current times when new types of media such as the Internet are emerging, there is a sense that OOH is on the decline. However (and the same applies to myself), we are being inundated by an excessive volume of information on our smartphones and the Internet, and I think that we are gradually becoming less conscious and aware of advertisements. Amidst this environment, out-of-home advertising, which we encounter unexpectedly in our everyday lives, may conversely have greater potential depending on how they are harnessed. By combining it with a brand that has established "magical feeling" as its concept, I feel that we have gotten a glimpse of that potential in this project.
-- During the campaign period, how did people at the site react?
Yamura: I had thought that many people would simply walk past while taking side glances at it, but more people than we expected stopped to look at the exhibits. I feel that we were successful in connecting consumers with the brand through an "experience." In statistical terms, the number of visitors to the brand's website via the MAJOLICA Bird increased by 187% compared to the previous month. It also stirred up discussions and talks in the press and on social media, and was effective in providing an experience of the brand to people we have not been able to reach before this, including the young people who are our target audience.
-- In the modern times, where everything has become possible with technology, and our streets are overflowing with advertisements, it is difficult to create expressions that surprise people. What were the factors that contributed to the success of this project?
Yamura: Paradoxically, it may have been a good thing that we did not make it such an obvious advertisement. This time, we did not include any information about the date for launch of sales, etc., which would have been crucial in a conventional advertisement. More than anything, we placed great importance on offering consumers the experience of our worldview. Alongside with the mission of expanding our fan base, we hope to increase--even if it is just one more person--the number of consumers who will "continue buying MAJOLICA MAJORCA for life," to put it in extreme terms.
One of the important concepts shared among the team during the launch of the brand in 2003 was to "make it above average," and to "make it well-liked" rather than "keep it from being disliked." It is not easy to say this in this day and time, when the emphasis tends to be placed on statistical results; however, we have succeeded because we preserved this philosophy and achieved the fundamental goal of giving a special experience to just one person, rather than blindly pursuing numbers.
-- If you create something good, the numbers are bound to follow suit.
Yamura: Even if we were to create something with the purpose of achieving widespread dissemination on social media, it would all be over in an instant. Conversely, if we were to create experiences properly and precisely, I believe that people would naturally want to tell others about it. I think that it would be a good idea to go back to the basics and consider that once again.
I think that we can say the same thing about how we use technology. In producing creative expressions in advertising, technology is ultimately a means to an end, and it is more important to use it to give expression to something. If we were to position the showcasing of new technology as our first priority, I think that would be putting the cart before the horse. MAJOLICA MAJORCA has managed to last for such a long time because it has continued to spread the worldview that it should protect as a brand. In advertising as well, I place value on expressions that can be sustained for a long time and passed on to future generations regardless of the medium.
-- Last but not least, could you tell us some of the things that you would like to carry into the future through this campaign?
Yamura: We received the Digital Signage Award by Digital Signage Consortium of Japan for this campaign. Looking at the other winning works for this Award, I realized that signage is now gradually becoming something that is tied in with a specific place. Some of the examples include one where the video is interlinked with the actual movements of the water in a fountain, and one that made use of signage near the security inspection site at an airport to present a video that is made to look like an X-ray baggage inspection monitor.
If we could apply this concept, it should also be possible to consider signage expressions that can only be achieved at a certain site, such as by changing the creative expression depending on the time, season, or weather. Going forward, I hope to take up the challenge of creating such expressions that are closer to reality and our everyday lives, all the more so because it is becoming increasingly difficult to trust advertising in our modern times.