I really love the web. I posted about Tohato's World's Worst War and how it won an award for the best mobile advertising campaign. And I said it was a great story, and I'd get back to it. Well, before I had even had time to think about trying to find their info, a good friend who specializes on the Japanese mobile market posted a story about it. No surprise, that was our friend Lars Cosh-Ishii over at Wireless Watch Japan. The best part is that he found an english-language video clip describing the game. Its EVEN more COOL than I thought !!
So lets dig a bit deeper. First the big picture. Tohato makes snack foods in Japan, potato chips, that kind of stuff, in bags. They launched two new spicy snacks in October 2007, the "Tyrant Habanero Burning Hell Hot", and the "Satan Jorquia Bazooka Deadly Hot" (yeah, gotta love 'em Japanese and their Western style branding. I don't know if I'd have thought of "bazooka" deadly hot, but hey, why not. I wouldn't want to be hit by a bazooka..)
Then Tohato used Japanese ad agency Hakuhodo to create the launch campaign for the new snacks. And what a campaign they designed, indeed. They designed a massively multiplayer online game (MMOG). Not only that, but their game ran on mobile phones - another relatively rare phenomenon in the MMOG space, most MMOGs like World of Warcraft, CounterStrike and Lineage 2 are designed for personal computers.
Then - the recruitment of the players/gamers/army. Each side recruited an "Evil Army" based on the brand of snack and those who liked that flavour. Gamers could join the Habanero Evil Army, or the Satan Jorquia Evil Army. To sign up, you had to buy a bag of the snacks and scan the 2D barcode with the cameraphone (83% of Japanese already use the 2D Barcode feature, so this is quite commonplace in Japan today, certainly among the youth, who were the target audience, classic Generation C for Community)
Once in the game, gamers were encouraged to recruit friends to join that Evil Army. The recruiter would gain promotions in the army depending on new recruits, and their recruits. A classic pyramid scheme and remarkably viral. A private was promoted to sergeant, then promoted to lieutanent, then to captain, etc..
The armies had 31 battlefields to win the World's Worst War. These had again really appealing names for this generation, like Sweet Sucker's Execution Hall, the City of Anal Torture, and Shadap Bay. Remember the target audience, this is exactly the kinds of names that are cool to them..
The battles were scheduled for 4 AM - when there is least traffic in the network. Obviously this meant the Gen-C members needed to be up at that hour, so probably consumed more of the snacks at that part of the night. They generated enormous traffic, 100,000 page views per day. And the game had a 24 hour news alert service to inform gamers what was going on, who died, which team won the latest battle, who was promoted, etc.
Now, I love this concept in a million different ways. Its clearly interactive and very viral. It is true engagement, in that the users had fun playing with the brand, their characters had shapes in the style of the death masks of the snack of choice, and they had to go and literally fight (and virtually even die) for their preferred brand. Talk about creating passion and involvement. It is clearly capitalizing on many of the the 7th Mass Media benefits, personal (my gaming character on my phone), permanently carried (alerts), always on (4 AM wars), user data (redeeming the 2D coupon) and social context (viral marketing).
It lived in that space between reality and virtuality. And it drove attention and buyers to the new snacks brands. And obviously, it was a totally non-digital brand, that was able to launch a totally digital initiative, fully consistent with its target audience and its passions. Brilliant. The campaign won the "Yellow Pencil" award at the D&AD annual awards. If you'd like to see a short video that describes it in English, go to the Wireless Watch Japan, and follow the story there.
Now, I'd like to find out who won the war (if any of our readers in Japan know, please tell us) and am digging still for more info. Oh, and our congratulations to Hakuhodo, great idea, great execution! This is my fave story right now.