Matthew Miller
Dec 12, 2014

The truth behind an unreal reality-style video about a lie detector

A Japanese mock-umentary about a head-borne device that's supposedly capable of detecting deception is a fun way to blow three minutes. But the story behind Tomy's Cocoro Scanner and its marketing is even more interesting.

"A monk, a gold-digger and a transvestite meet the truth."

That's the email subject line that brought the above video to our attention. And the clip does not disappoint. Indeed, it not only keeps its promise of a monk, a gold-digger and a gender-bending person facing the truth, but also introduces us to an uncomfortable young boyfriend, an increasingly desperate salaryman and a few others, all of whom find their lives altered by a piece of electronic headgear. The gadget, a charmingly dishevelled engineer informs us, evaluates heartrate to determine when the wearer deviates from the truth. 

The email with the titillating subject line informed us that the device is a real thing called the Cocoro Scanner, It comes from Tomy, a Tokyo-based toy company best known for wholesome fare like die-cast vehicles and Pokémon figures. The video, of course, is not a documentary but rather a scripted piece of marketing done by Ogilvy & Mather Japan.

This did not begin to satisfy our curiosity, however. For example, are we meant to believe a presumably affordable device can really divine the truth? Why is a toy company venturing into an adult market and using topics like adultery and sexual deception in its marketing? And is showcasing the product's potential to wreak emotional devastation really a sound marketing tactic?  

So we posed some questions to both the client and the agency.

Ajab Samrai, chief creative officer, Ogilvy & Mather Japan

What was the brief?

To create a great viral film that would generate awareness and develop a steady steam of interest around the launch of their new product, the Cocoro Scanner.

Did Tomy specifically ask you to make it funny and provocative?

We were keen to give a humorous, lively and more provocative element to the creative and idea. The client was great in giving us the freedom to explore this approach, working with us every step of the way. We are all very pleased with the result.

Do you actually expect anyone to take the video at face value, or were you deliberately trying to make it so over the top that everyone knows it's a joke?

The idea has been carefully crafted to allow the audience to choose how they wish to interpret it. Overall it’s meant to be a tongue-in-cheek way of generating some interest around a fun party gadget aimed at young adults.

Why is the over-the-top approach a good strategy?

Exaggeration has always been a powerful creative tool in advertising. At heart, it’s also a good old-fashioned product demo.

Did the client have any reservations about the approach? Specifically, the video basically more or less portrays the device as a force for evil and a creator of broken hearts. It also makes the company look a bit clueless, as the 'inventor' of the device seemingly didn't realise what kind of trouble it would cause.

There is always some nervousness around bold work of this nature, but the client trusted us to get it right. The global coverage and interest this product is now getting is testament to this.

We did not intend for the device or creative to be seen as a force for evil. It is a party gadget for young adults, after all. And, while there is a degree of science behind it, it is not meant to be taken too seriously.

The ‘engineer’ that you see in the film is the real guy who invented the scanner and who works at Tomy. He is a creative himself and a little nuts, like all inventors are!

The video created is set to reflect the playful nature of the device, and we are all very pleased with the outcome and results.

HG Meij, representative director and chief operating officer, Tomy Company

What are your objectives for the product?

We met as a team to develop an idea for a product that we wanted to drive a lot of excitement around and see people use at parties. We very much wanted to show people’s real-time reactions in order to set the right tone and mood—this is how Cocoro Scanner was born.

Is this a new product direction for Tomy, making products for adults?

Tomy has developed several products aimed at adults in the past, but only as single-shots. We are now planning to develop more products around a party-gadget theme, with a view to launch a series of products and enrich our portfolio.

With all due respect, I don't believe the device can actually act as a lie detector. After all, even expensive 'lie detectors' used by law enforcement are not reliable enough to be accepted as evidence in many jurisdictions. Does the device come with disclaimers about its accuracy? Do you worry people will take it seriously and be hurt by real-life situations like the ones depicted by the actors in the video?

Our objective with the Cocoro Scanner is not to expose dishonesty in a disturbing way, but to bring a light-hearted tone and excitement to gatherings or parties. We believe that it serves our original intention and we’re happy with the result.

Firstly, the devices senses people’s usual pulse and evaluates an average. From here, it determines whether he/she is impacted by the questions and how this alters the pulse. The pulse rhythm varies across individuals, and so we often see varied results.

While there is room for further accuracy, we take pride in the degree and level of accuracy to date.

Did you have any worries about the approach Ogilvy took with the video?

The approach that Ogilvy took has been completely different to one we would normally take—we were surprised at first. However, the team’s passion to create an impressive experience and document this has meant we are now excited to see the outcome. We are watching to see how markets react to the idea with great interest.

Despite any initial concerns, we have not received any claims from our users and our numbers have risen steadily as a result. We have no concerns now.



Advertising Agency: Ogilvy & Mather Japan
Client: Tomy Company
Account Executive: Ai Shimomura, Maiko Wakabayashi
Chief Creative Officer: Ajab Samrai
Creative Directors: Ricardo Adolfo
Creatives: Andy Fenning, Akihito Abe, Federico Garcia, Kohei Matsui, Nobuhisa Ishizuka,Yusuke, Tokumaru, Takashi Tsukamoto,Takenori, Hashimoto, Toshikazu Suzuki, Yusuke Tokumaru, Masahide Yoshimi, Masaaki Sai, Katsuya Takahashi
Agency Producer: Atsuko Keino
Production: AOI Pro.
Director: Yukihiro Shoda, Kentaro Osawa
Producer: Ai Yamamoto, Hisaya Kato, Teppei Yoshihara
Production Manager: Hayato Kawashima, Kosuke Sakai
DOP: Shingo Ikeura
Editor: Kentaro Osawa
Sound: Arai Tamotsu
CGI: Yoshiyuki Shimada



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