After nearly five months of search and a screening of 35 top ad firms, the Marianas Visitors Authority announced over the weekend that it has selected Dentsu Inc. of Tokyo to promote the Northern Mariana Islands as its new advertising agency. Dentsu Account Management Division 10 not only has a new $1.9 million contract from
MVA, but an attention-getting mascot and ad concept already in place to kick off in Japanese newspapers next month.
“We’re excited to have the selection process behind us and get on with the business of promoting the Commonwealth,” said Bartley Jackson, general manager of the Pacific Islands Club and the MVA board member who headed up the selection committee. “A lot of qualified and experienced international agencies were interested in promoting our destination. We chose Dentsu because of their interest and creative ideas.”
“It’s been a long process. It’s been both educational and challenging and now we’re looking forward to working with Dentsu and using their concept for the ‘Saipanda’ character to increase mind share of the Japanese traveler,” said MVA Managing Director Perry J. Tenorio.
Beginning March 1, MVA and Dentsu will introduce “Saipanda,” a new character resembling a panda bear with a rhinoceros horn nose. The name is a triple play on words that ties in the name of the island of Saipan, the panda, the rhinoceros (“sai” in Japanese) and also the phrase, “It’s Saipan,” or “Let’s go to Saipan,” in Japanese.
“This animal is quite eye catching. The character is symbolic, easy to understand, and it will differentiate Saipan from other destinations such as Guam and Hawaii,” said Dentsu Management Supervisor Tamio Kobata. “We believe this will stimulate the Japanese mind share for Saipan.”
Unlike the predominant style of print advertising in Japan which is very cluttered, the new print campaign uses single, striking photos with “Saipanda” enjoying various island sports and recreational activities.
The agency will first focus on establishing the character, which they are describing as an active Japanese male who is a repeat visitor that is “crazy about Saipan.” After introducing the character extensively in newspapers, magazines, subway and train stations, Dentsu will turn their efforts to specifics such as the wedding and diving markets.
“We need to focus on the mass market first. The concept of ‘Saipanda’ is simple and will have impact,” said Kobata.
Designed by Sadatomo Kawamura, art director for Dentsu’s Creative Division 4, Saipanda will also be used on sales promotion tools such as pens, clothing and stuffed animals which could be used as future gift items for travel agents and/or merchandised to consumers. “Budget allowing, we’d like to see ‘Saipanda’ stuffed toys sitting on the desks of travel agents as customers come in to decide which destination they’re going to,” said Tenorio. “The character will utilize the name of Saipan, but as always, our overall goal is to promote the whole destination — Saipan, Tinian and Rota,” said the MVA executive.
The new ad campaign will also be used to draw attention to 1999 Visit the Marianas Year. “With everything, the ’99 Visit the Marianas Year logo will be incorporated. Information about our ’99 events will be included in a banner at the bottom of all print ads,” Tenorio said.
According to the international trade publication of the advertising world, Advertising Age (April 1998), Dentsu Inc. ranks as the number one agency in the world. Founded in 1901 and headquartered in Tokyo, the company is involved in a full range of communication activities including sales promotion, corporate communications, event production and sports marketing. Its domestic and global network includes 5,683 employees and offices in Japan, Asia/Oceania, North America, Europe, the Middle East and India.
Dentsu has a significant record of service in the travel business, including numerous campaigns for airlines, Japan Railways, travel agencies, credit card companies and hotels. It also has extensive experience in tourist promotions aimed at the Japanese public, including assignments from Thailand, New Zealand, France and Australia.
Dentsu’s major clients in Japan include: Japan Airlines, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s Toyota, Sony, Canon cameras, Shisedo and numerous other well known firms.
A shooting team from MVA’s new advertising agency will return to Saipan early this month to gather images for the promotional campaign.
Although new to the Northern Marianas, the account team of Dentsu 10 is well versed in the minds of the Japanese traveler. “We travel a lot ourselves and have been around the world to many different countries,” said Kobata.