HELP THE KELP

Short List
TitleHELP THE KELP
BrandRISHIRI TOWN
Product / ServiceSMARTPHONE GAME
CategoryF01. Local Brand
EntrantGEOMETRY GLOBAL Tokyo, JAPAN
Idea Creation GEOMETRY GLOBAL Tokyo, JAPAN
PR GEOMETRY GLOBAL Tokyo, JAPAN
Production TCJ Tokyo, JAPAN
Production 2 OMUSUBI GENERAL INCORPORATED ASSOCIATION Minamisōma, JAPAN

Credits

Name Company Position
Fumitaka Takano Geometry Global Japan Executive Creative Director
Katsuya Yamamoto Geometry Global Japan Creative Director
Katsuya Yamamoto Geometry Global Japan Art Director
Hirohisa Fujiwara Geometry Global Japan Copywriter
Katsuya Yamamoto Geometry Global Japan Illustrator
Hirohisa Fujiwara Geometry Global Japan Planner
Kenji Yamada Freelance Photographer
Shima Hayashi Geometry Global Japan PR
Takashi Moriyama General Incorporated Association Omusubi Programmer
Yoji Ikeshita TCJ Producer
Tomohiko Mieda TCJ Director/Editor
Ippei Koyama TCJ Cameraman
Shunpei Arai TCJ Recording
Junki Murakumo TCJ Music
Anam Sekiguchi Box Corporation Actor
Yurina Tsubaki Box Corporation Actor
Shogo Takahashi TCJ Production Manager

Why is this work relevant for PR?

Help the Kelp converted a traditionally static approach to prefecture PR and kelp farming recruitment by creating an engaging brand experience delivered through social media and mobile. The approach leveraged the development of a mobile game that created a fun slice of the life of a kelp farmer while also delivering the broader story behind the island of Rishiri. The quirkiness to this idea and innovative execution brought significant interest from the news media in Japan, delivering $1.7 million of media against a $3000 program budget with a $0 PR budget.

Background

Rishiri Island in Northern Japan is famous for kombu, a kelp that is the key ingredient for umami flavor in Japanese cuisine. The island and its people have a long tradition of harvesting the highest quality kombu, but this is under threat due to the draw of big cities to the younger population. With limited labor to continue the tradition, the future of the Rishiri kelp industry is at stake. Hence the brief was to arrest this trend by bringing attention to the island and attracting talent to the kombu harvest.

Describe the creative idea (20% of vote)

At 3 meters, kombu is a long seaweed that must be laid flat to dry in the sunshine before processing. This back-breaking and highly technical work was the catalyst to our idea. We created “Help the Kelp,” a smartphone game where gamers virtually lay out 3-meter lengths of kelp in the manner of our island workers. Since farmers must lay out hundreds of kelp lines per day, we created a challenge of accuracy and speed to give gamers some sense of what it takes in real life. We then recognized those who achieved high scores as potential kombu recruits. They were sent a scouting message with an offer of part-time kelp work. And to spread the word, we integrated content into the game to help gamers learn about the charm of Rishiri Island and the vital role kelp farming plays in sustaining the people there.

Describe the strategy (30% of vote)

To tackle the challenge of attracting a young audience to the plight of a distant island, our strategy was to connect with them through their most precious possession–the smartphone. Knowing they were avid mobile gamers, we sought to bring the life of a kelp farmer to them physically rather than merely communicating via media. Since mobile gaming is a competitive environment, we had to create something unique that would garner attention and pique their competitive vigor. We then leveraged the unique nature of the game to drive PR interest with news networks and social media. While the primary objective was to raise awareness of work opportunities on Rishiri, we also made sure to deliver prospects by collecting contact user data. Follow-up invitations of part-time work ensured we were able to tell a complete story and gain feedback from those who made the trip to work as a kelp farmer.

Describe the execution (20% of vote)

The game was introduced organically via the Rishiri social media channels and through online gaming websites. The campaign ran from May 20 to July 10 of this year as a recruitment drive for the kelp harvesting season. To drive PR, contact was made with news networks introducing them to this unique recruitment campaign. And to capitalize on the interest, Rishiri’s website content was updated to better tell the story of the island, the industry of kelp farming, and reinforce the need for young workers to come to the island and continue the tradition.

List the results (30% of vote) – must include at least two of the following tiers:

The mobile game was featured in TV news programs, web media, newspapers and popular radio programs due to the unique approach to recruitment. As more people tried the game the comments grew on social networks. And when word of the activity made it back to the main town on Rishiri Island, it brought much joy to the inhabitants who were excited to see their broad appeal from across Japan. In summary: - 170 million yen advertising conversion costs for only 300,000 yen production costs - 120 million reach / up 4000% year on year - 60 media outlets covered the story - +4000% web traffic to the part-time job recruitment page - 5 young people in 20s were employed part-time as kelp farmers - The game and news story even reached international markets with play occurring in 27 countries

Please tell us about the brand in relation to the locality or market where the product/service is distributed

The brand is Rishiri Town, the local municipality on Rishiri Island. With a population of approximately 2,000 and unique geography where it's surrounded by mountains and sea, the town sits in isolation from mainland Japan. As a result, it's been experiencing an exodus of the younger populace--a prevalent trend with rural Japanese towns but especially dire here. Seeing double-digit decline from the aging populace in recent years, kelp production had consequently dropped steeply as well--by half. Previous recruitment efforts have been fruitless due to its geographic isolation and a lack of innovative PR. Yet due to its tradition of harvesting premium and cherished kombu spanning centuries, we saw that the Rishiri had untapped potential and charm, and just needed the right idea.

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