Bandai – the time that we ‘out-weirded’ Japan.


Bandai’s Unazukin toy was the Japanese sleeper hit of 2006. A tiny, toy fairy that nodded or shook its head in response to life’s most important questions.. how could it not be? Working in conjunction with Cow PR our role was to create awareness of a toy that, whilst initially aimed at kids, was slowly gaining increasing cult status with older consumers. We were briefed to generate traffic and also build an online story that Cow PR could use to get column inches.

We elected to create a bizarre Unazukin blog that appeared to be the work of a Japanophile obsessive and which would aggregate all the insane and amazing Japanese Unazukin content and open it up to a western audience.  I’d just spent 6 months living in Tokyo between Nakano (the mecca of manga and cosplay) and Kichijoji (the home of Studio Gibli) setting up our Japan office and I knew toy designers, comic book obsessives and all manner of people who would know exactly where to find it.  Only it didn’t exist.

I was lucky enough to have a some great animators in-house and so we didn’t let a little thing like a complete lack of bizarre and unusual content stop us.  We set about inventing up our own.  An Unazukin TV ad,  a bizarre Unazukin game where you had to defend its picnic from cute looking flies, Unazukin v Godzilla fanimation and content from a Japanese design-your-own Unazukin competition which we ‘found’ and used to kickstart our own competition.  A competition which took digital engagement to a dark but excellent place and saw submissions of real, often quite disturbing and ultimately very shareable user generated content.

The crowning glory was the discovery that this Yes/No toy could accurately predict the outcome of games in the World Cup which coincided with the campaign.  This was a full 4 years before Paul the Octopus was a thing.  This illusion was created by a month of trips by members of the team to a bemused local bookies laying bets on opposite outcomes for the same match and the surreptitious publishing of the winning betting slips to the blog set up a story for Cow PR to run with.

The game was played by 3.8 million people across games portals and the blog site itself.  The mysterious story of Unazukin’s world cup premonitions was reported on the day of the World Cup Final by renowned gossip sites online as well as in the national tabloid press.  On that day we did it for real.  Unazukin decided who would win and, for the first time, I went to the bookies and bet on just one team.

They lost.

Unrelated but weirdly connected – I went to the first couple of games during that World Cup and ended up on the news in Japan.