Masaya Shimizu, a planning director at the agency, said during his seminar address Thursday at Spikes Asia 2014 that while people in Japan are living longer than ever, they are also more susceptible to lifestyle diseases. The best way to tackle the problem is not through treatment, but through prevention. However, Shimizu noted that people are reluctant to change their behaviour at the best of times, and that “noisy doctors” advising lifestyle modifications have no impact.
Drawing on VW’s ‘Fun Theory’ campaign as an example, he said the best way to effect change is to manipulate the environment. From a communications perspective, the result of ‘Fun Theory’ (that people chose to take the stairs rather than the escalator in a station) was unsurprising, but for doctors the outcome was “very exciting”.
Combining logic with advertising thinking to create environments that encourage people to be healthier will be an important part of healthcare marketing, he suggested. That is what Dentsu’s Ad-Med initiative sets out to do.
One example in Japan that Shimizu gave was that of the Tanita restaurant, which aims to conquer obesity by offering an array of measurements and even complementary advice from nutritionists. Another was the ‘Smile Matsuyama’ project that set out to rebuild an aging town to be more naturally health-conscious. “Creativity can be a cure for social problems,” he said.
Campaign’s observation: Advertising has immense potential to be a force for good. While Dentsu's examples did not involve major brands, by working to improve society, brands can become naturally relevant to people’s lives. But they must be committed to any undertaking and genuinely want to do something positive—not just do it as a stunt to flog a few more units.