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Unique Marketing Bolsters Sales of New Game System

February 8, 1999

In one of the famed ads, Yukawa secretly rejoices upon overhearing children on the street (in the background) talking excitedly about Dreamcast, his company's product. (Sega Enterprises)

In 1998 an ordinary office executive appeared on a television ad and soon became as recognizable as today's most poplar entertainers. His name is Hidekazu Yukawa of Sega Enterprises, star of commercials touting the November 1998 release of Sega's new Dreamcast home video game system. His acting was so convincing that many viewers mistook him for a professional actor, and he became an overnight sensation.

Image Make-Over
There are actually seven ads in the unconventional and highly touted series featuring Yukawa, which ran for about half a year prior to the system's release. The original ad features Yukawa overhearing some kids demeaning Sega's system while praising rival Sony's PlayStation. Disturbed, he returns to his office to confront his employees about the matter, where his worst fears are confirmed. Downhearted, he takes to the city streets to drown his sorrows. Staggering home in a drunken haze, he gets roughed up by a group of gangsters. Returning home in utter defeat, he hears a voice out of nowhere reverberating: "Get on your feet, Yukawa!"

Last Ditch Strategy
Some insiders at Sega were apprehensive about degrading their own product. But due in large part to Yukawa's convincing performance, the commercial became an instant hit. "We felt that at the outset, it was important to change people's perception of Sega and to get them to take an interest in us," remarked Yukawa. The ads did exactly that, striking a chord especially with young viewers, and the company soon found itself flooded with telephone and e-mail inquiries. A Yukawa home page (Japanese only) was established and, more recently, Yukawa's image has been featured on Print Club photo sticker machines and prepaid convenience store cards. In another sign of his popularity, it has been common to see children emulating his antics from the ads.

As a result of the commercials' impact, Yukawa has become even more recognizable than the game console itself, prompting Sega to imprint his face on the product's box for greater product visibility.

When the system finally went on sale, Yukawa was present at the release ceremony. Thanks to the effectiveness of the ads and thumbs-up reviews of its arcade-like high-resolution graphics, the next-generation system quickly sold out nationwide.

From Here On?
Despite its explosive beginning, Dreamcast's launch has not been without mishap. Due to insufficient production planning, the company has been unable to churn out enough units to keep up with demand over the first two months of its release. Yukawa was demoted to a lower post because of his planning oversight, but Sega once again demonstrated its marketing savvy by featuring him in an ad apologizing for his mishaps--a rare "apology ad." While the success of Dreamcast's upcoming overseas release remains to be seen, the product's future in Japan, thanks in large part to its corporate pitchman, looks like a sure bet.

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Trends in JapanEdited by Japan Echo Inc. based on domestic Japanese news sources. Articles presented here are offered for reference purposes and do not necessarily represent the policy or views of the Japanese Government.

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