Kai-kun, a celebrated dog that starred in a long-running advertising campaign by SoftBank in Japan, has died at the age of 16.
The snowy pooch, a thoroughbred from Hokkaido, was the first ‘actor’ to play the role of Otosan (father) in SoftBank’s Shirato (White) family, an institution that started in 2007 and is still going today. Kai-kun retired in 2011, passing the bone to his son, Kaito-kun.
As SoftBank’s story goes, Otosan is a human in canine form. He presides over a family that includes a son, Kojiro, who is a black American, as well as a Japanese mother and daughter. Tommy Lee Jones has also been known to join them as a maid, retaining his alien persona from a similarly long-running and bizarro campaign for Boss, a coffee brand owned by Suntory. The two brands first collaborated for a sub-campaign in 2012.
As a tribute to Kai-kun and indeed the rest of the cast, here is a look back at some of the campaign’s highlights, some featuring Kai-kun, some Kaito-kun. As well as watching his son grapple with a predatory squid in Bali, Otosan impresses a Frenchman with his language skills and takes a trip to space, among other adventures.
Campaign’s view: In all seriousness, the TV campaign stands out as one of Japan’s most impressive in living memory, for its inventiveness (some might say strangeness), sense of humour and sheer entertainment value. It has succeeded in building a far stronger brand representation for SoftBank's mobile operations than the company probably deserves, taking into account the unremarkable service that it offers as one of Japan’s three dominant telco giants. This kind of work is a rare gem not just in the TV sphere but on any platform, and should be celebrated, whichever generation of thespian Hokkaido-ken happens to be playing the father.
Ryoko Tasaki contributed to this article.