It’s not often that you see loan companies take communications seriously (unless they’re telling someone to cough up), but Kyoto-based Aiful is one that does. Regardless of what you might think of the sector, the firm’s branding work deserves special praise.
Aiful, whose name is a mash-up of Japanese and English that means ‘full of love’, this week released its latest installment of a campaign that began six months ago.
Featuring the actress Mao Daichi and comedian Hiroki Konno, the campaign is an ongoing play on the idea of having a sense of love in one’s spirit; a love one can “believe in”.
As the statuesque proprietor of a ryokan (Okamisan), Daichi is also something of a spiritual teacher to her chef, Konno, routinely asking him if love is present in his situation, and occasionally concluding that it is.
A typical interaction goes like this:
Okamisan [with stern manner]: “Konno, let me ask you something: do you have love? Do you have a love you can believe in?”
Konno [taken fully by surprise]: “Love?!”
Grand theme music then proclaims, "Love is the best. Aiful".
And that’s about it.
It doesn’t sound as if it should work, but the acting, the timing, the sets and the context render it all highly amusing and strangely beautiful. The most recent spot has the dialogue take place at Konno’s wedding, where he is left wondering, “Why is she asking me this now?”
In the preceding installment, Konno tells his subordinates to stop sweeping in the garden because their actions are disturbing a butterfly that’s trying to take its meal. His own supervisor then surprises him with what seems to be her regular line of questioning, before her features soften and she judges him to have found love, presumably based on his consideration for the butterfly.
The entire campaign up to this point can be viewed on Aiful's YouTube channel.
Will there be more to the story than this? The viewer doesn’t know, but is intrigued and entertained nonetheless. Do they really believe that a loan company treats its customers with love? Almost certainly not, but Aiful would still likely be top of mind if they were ever in the market for one. Would this campaign ever win a Cannes Lion? It seems unlikely, because judges unfamiliar with Japanese advertising would probably find it both overly simplistic and too abstract. But in Japan it works, and it's one of the most likeable pieces of TV advertising currently on display. It's a rare example of a company in the financial services sector showing a sense of humour and originality, a grasp of branding, and a desire to engage rather than shout about its services.