Product / ServiceSUMIDA AQUARIUM
CategoryA04. Travel, Leisure, Retail, Restaurants & Fast Food Chains
Idea Creation DENTSU INC. Tokyo, JAPAN
Production D2C DOT Tokyo, JAPAN
Production 2 IMG SRC Tokyo, JAPAN
Production 3 TAIYO KIKAKU CO., LTD. Tokyo, JAPAN


Name Company Position
Yusuke Shimazu DENTSU INC. Creative Director
Takahiro Kishi DENTSU INC. Planner
Miyuki Ito DENTSU INC. Copywriter
Momoka Fukuyado DENTSU INC. Copywriter
Aiko Kurikawa DENTSU CREATIVE FORCE INC. Agency Producer
Taro Okami DENTSU INC. Account Executive
Iori Watanabe DENTSU INC. Account Executive
Kosho Himuro DENTSU INC. Account Executive
Atsushi Suzuki DENTSU INC. Account Executive
Taro Sugawara D2C dot Inc. Producer
Masanori Mori IMG SRC Technical Director
Koichiro Nishizawa GOZONJI Director
Ryota Izumiya TAIYO KIKAKU Co., Ltd. Film Producer
Toshimitsu Fujishima TAIYO KIKAKU Co., Ltd. Film Producer
Takanori Kubo catchball Inc. Promotion Planner

Why is this work relevant for PR?

Many people who were forced to stay at home due to COVID-19 had a fundamental desire to do something to help others. Having realized this latent desire, the Sumida Aquarium spread the news that, due to its long-term closure, the animals at the aquarium were beginning to forget about people. It generated tremendous buzz, both inside Japan and abroad, by holding this participatory event, made possible precisely by the fact that people were at home.


COVID-19 forced Tokyo’s Sumida Aquarium to close down for an unprecedentedly long period of time. This led to an unexpected development. The animals, which had become accustomed to the aquarium’s visitors, began to forget about people. The over spotted garden eels, which normally entertained visitors by peeking out from beneath the sand, began burrowing and hiding whenever aquarium staff passed by. This made it impossible for staff to check on their health -- were they losing weight? Were they injured? It was a tremendous problem for the staff. They needed an idea for a way to remind the spotted garden eels about people, and to remind the many people staying in their homes of the aquarium’s existence.

Describe the creative idea (20% of vote)

We decided to hold an “Emergency Eel Exhibition,” in which people at home could use their smartphones for video chats with the spotted garden eels. We shared the news that “spotted garden eels are forgetting about us humans” and communicated the message that “the aquarium wants to show your face to the eels and remind them about humanity.” The framing of “the aquarium needs your help” provided an extra push to peoples’ desire to help those less fortunate, stimulating voluntary participation and word of mouth.

Describe the PR strategy (30% of vote)

As each day brought new COVID-19 news, many people wanted to do something for other people, and for society as a whole. To direct that desire towards little living things, and the struggling aquarium, we created a strategic initiative that was not about “helping people who cannot go out” but “people who cannot go out helping the aquarium.” We used SOS messaging -- “The spotted garden eels are starting to forget people. We want you to help them out by showing them your face.” Our aim with this framework, in which the aquarium and members of the general public worked together to solve a problem, was to generate even greater interest and create even more buzz.

Describe the PR execution (20% of vote)

On April 28, 2020, we shared the fact that “the eels are starting to forget about people,” not through the mass media, but on Twitter, so that people would want to share the news. We declared that an "Emergency Eel Exhibition” would be held from May 3 to May 5, during the annual extended holiday period. The system was simple: a tablet computer was placed in front of the eel tank, and people could use their smartphones from home, showing their faces to the eels through video chats, helping out the aquarium. We also predicted that there would be a massive call volume, and that many people would not be able to get through, so we also set up a live video feed that let people see if the eels really peeked their heads out. This was also filmed and distributed to the media to generate further buzz.

List the results (30% of vote)

The first tweet was shared over 120,000 times. The ultimate social share surpassed 1,120,000, and became a Twitter trend not only in Japan but also in various other countries in lockdowns, such as the U.K. and Hong Kong. In terms of media exposure, this project was covered over 1,800 times, including reporting in 22 television programs, and there were over one million video chat calls from more than 20 countries. The spotted garden eels also began peeking their heads out from the sand, and the video feed showing this was seen by two million viewers, far more than the aquarium’s number of annual visitors. The project was a success, allowing many people to experience Sumida Aquarium’s philosophy of bringing people closer to aquatic life.