Scene on Japan Street
tissue distributor in events


Article on TISSUE ads

As the camera rolls and the lights come alive, a woman in company uniform exudes charm, with a smile on her face. Then the face of a female interviewer is brought into close-up.

“What’s good about distributing tissues to passers-by?” the interviewer says to the uniformed woman.

After a little pause the company employee replies resolutely but smilingly, “I feel I can convey my sincerity when I distribute with my whole heart.”

This is a scene from a daily TV commercial in which “pocket tissue paper” is given away to passers-by on the street by an employee of Japan’s biggest consumer money-lending company.

Banks were the first to distribute pocket tissues free of charge. About four decades ago they began to give away tissues to customers at the window as part of their customer service. It was in the 1980s when pocket tissues for free distribution took to the streets. They are used as a sales promotion tool most frequently by consumers’ financial companies, including the sponsor of the preceding TV commercial. Among the distributors of tissues are also eating houses, English schools, aesthetic salons, and associations of hot-spring resorts. These days even government offices join them. It is not rare for a local government to distribute packaged tissues with a message encouraging people to go to the polls or warning them to be careful not to get involved in crimes. Sometimes the police give away tissues in packages with a portrait of a most wanted criminal.

The packages of these pocket tissues usually bear not only the names of a company and its products but also detailed information, such as its telephone number and a map showing its location. “Pocket tissues are more effective than handbills because they can be put to use,” observed Kamei Akihiro, a professor of advertising theory at Waseda University. “Each time a receiver uses the tissues, he sees the message on their package. The merit of pocket tissues is that they are of great propaganda value.”

The yearly output of pocket tissues, both for sale and for free distribution, in Japan, amounts to 2,000 million to 2,500 million packages. This means that there are about twenty tissue packages for each Japanese. Although that widespread in Japan, in other countries it is almost impossible to see pocket tissues given away on the street.

With the popularity of pocket tissues in Japan in mind, a Japanese producer of pocket tissues dared to give them away in New York fifteen years ago. Against all expectations, however, New Yorkers gave them the cold shoulder. “What makes you think that I have reason to receive these tissues?” said one passer-by. New Yorkers did not take the free tissues for granted. There should be some reason for the Americans even to get something free of charge.

An American businessman on a visit to Japan said that he had been very surprised to see pocket tissues given away on the street. “It is frightening for me to receive from a stranger something that would touch my body.” Explained the businessman. On the contrary, a businessman from Australia discovered the convenience of the pocket tissues, which he saw for the first time in Japan. “As I walked along, I received every pocket tissue that was offered to me,” he said, “In a moment I had as many as fifteen packages of tissues in my pockets. I was not sure why they were distributing the tissues because I could not understand the Japanese messages on their packages. However, I was impressed by the convenience of the tissues.”

By Kagero Yuka

Abstract from East Publication.

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