In December 2008, 40 Japanese food producers, exporters and industry groups showed off their goods at China’s largest food trade fair in Shanghai, FHC China. The Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries, under the auspices of the Japan External Trade Organization (JETRO), sponsored the Japan Pavilion, where the Japan Agricultural Products Olympics was held. PR Consulting Dentsu produced, managed and promoted the event.
As Chinese buyers sample items they could also vote on their favorite booth based on the exhibitors’ displays and pitches. Three winners were selected, and the top-ranked booth was awarded a gold medal from Prime Minister Aso, silver medals presented by ministers from the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries and Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry, and the executive director of JETRO presented the bronze. The trade fair was held at a point when the issue of food safety was a major topic of discussion for both countries. It was essential that Japan did not appear to overemphasize the quality of their agricultural products, so special care was given to promote mutual understanding through the event.
Key goal of the PR Plan
– To garner coverage in both Chinese and Japanese media
Taking into account the differences in what the Chinese and Japanese media looks for in a story, content was prepared from two separate viewpoints. Content aimed at the Chinese media focused on promoting friendly relations between Japan and China. But a hook was still needed to draw additional attention to the Japan Agricultural Products Olympics. The vehicle chosen was the Japanese bento or prepared boxed meal.
China has no bento culture, but in Japan the often elaborate meal of pre-cooked rice, vegetables, pickles and meat is popular among students and adults alike. Japanese mothers are known to make artistic bento creations assembling the boxed ingredients to resemble popular cartoon characters.
PRCD decided to build the promotion around a “bento artist” who would give live demonstrations for visitors and media at FHC China using ingredients selected from among the Japanese exhibits. Themes for the demonstration were the panda, one of the national symbols of China, also loved in Japan, and the lion dance, a tradition shared by Japan and China in which people dance with lion’s head masks at festivals and other occasions.
The Japanese media was approached from a different stance, and emphasis was placed on the high-level of interest in Japanese food products in China. We successfully pitched stories that highlighted Chinese buyers enthusiastically engaging Japanese exhibitors, the number of visitors to the Japan Pavilion and the awards ceremony for the Japan Agricultural Products Olympics.