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Marketer: Japan Railway

Agency: Tugboat, Tokyo

Hotshop uses skiing ostriches to get consumers into the bullet train and on the slopes.

[Tokyo] In a bizarre but effective effort to get more people to take high-speed bullet trains to Japan's ski resorts and buy ski packages, Tokyo agency Tugboat designed a campaign around skiing ostriches.

In a TV spot, three ostriches wind expertly down the slopes, executing daring jumps and skiing on one foot. The words "We want snow" appear in English.

Kan Taniguchi, Tugboat's marketing director, said an agency creative chose the ostrich because the bird's speed symbolizes Japan Railway's bullet train, and is strange but funny because ostriches have absolutely nothing to do with snow or skiing. The campaign started last year, with a single ostrich, and was ranked the fourth-most-remembered among 4,700 spots in monthly awareness tests by a local research company. This year, there are three ostriches because Japan Air Lines and All Nippon joined Japan Railway's campaign, he said. (Although the skiers look amazingly ostrich-like, they are humans inside ostrich costumes.) There are also posters at every train station in Japan, and Japan Railway's Web site features an animated ski scene, with the ostriches and a variety of other creatures like a fuchsia camel lining up for the ski lift.

Japan Railway's sale of ski packages peaked in 1995 with more than 300,000 buyers. That declined to 180,000 by 2002. In the financial year spanning 2003 and 2004, more than 220,000 people bought the packages and the company is estimating sales of 250,000 for the financial year that started in 2004.

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