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Japan: Moving Beyond a TV Drama Production

There are some television shows that become fashion trend setters (à la Sex and the City) but what would you think if a show was designed as a vehicle to sell clothes?

With television stations in a financial slump with shrinking advertising revenues, Kansai Television is experimenting with a new take on product placement. Viewers are offered the chance to buy apparel and accessories showcased in the fashion drama Real Clothes [ja], which features popular actresses Hitomi Kuroki and Karina.

A summary of the show from Tokyo Graph:

The drama is based on Satoru Makimura's manga of the same name. Karina plays the role of Kinue, a saleswoman in the futon section of a department store. Despite her plain clothes and poor makeup, she ends up being transferred to the women's clothing department, where she has to be trained by her extraordinarily fashionable boss (Kuroki).

The RedPen blog gives a rundown of the system in a post titled “The border between advertisement and content is breaking down with ‘Real Clothes'” (崩れ始める広告とコンテンツの境界線、「リアル・クローズ」):

フジテレビは2009年10月13日(22:10~)より、関西テレビ制作のドラマ「リアル・クローズ」の放映を開始します。放送と同時に俳優が身につけている服やアクセサリーをネット経由で購入できる、いわゆるEC連動型番組ですが、公共電波を独占的、排他的に利用しているテレビ局のあこぎな商売として非難する声も上がっています。(参照:「主役が着た服、ドラマHPで即通販 番組?広告?境界は」)

Fuji TV will start broadcasting Kansai TV's “Real Clothes” from 22:10 on October 13th. It's an e-commerce program where viewers can go online and purchase the clothing and accessories that the actors wear on the show. There's outcry about this being the monopolistic and exclusive usage of public airwaves for commercial purposes by a television station.

リアル・クローズは電子番組表Gガイドを提供するインタラクティブ・プログラム・ガイドが開発したシステム「オンエアリンク」利用の第一号。出演者が着用した衣装やアクセサリーなどのアイテムや商品がテレビ番組のストーリーに連動して、ECサイトにアップされ、オンタイムで同じ商品が購入できるシステムです。出演者が着用している商品情報と番組メタデータをデータベース上でひも付け、タイムコードに合わせて配信・管理できます。

Real Clothes is the first practical application of the interactive program guide system “On Air Link”, which is developed by Interactive Program Guide, the creators of the electronic TV listings “G Guide”. The items worn by the actors are pushed to the e-commerce site and viewers can buy them while the show is being aired. Product information and program metadata are linked within the database and the system allows for information distribution and management in accordance to a time code.

Blogger Masahiko thinks it's all right for fans:

ドラマで使われた洋服やアクセサリーが通販で買えるというのは、昔からあった試みかもしれませんが、もう少し洗練させればテレビとネットを繋ぐ良いコンテンツになるのではないかと思います。[…] 批判的な見解もあるようですが、番組や特定の俳優・女優のファンであれば、同じアイテムを欲しくなる人もいるだろうし、そういった洋服が着たいと思っている人に商品を販売するのは良いと思います。

Offering apparel from TV dramas has been around for some time, but if the strategy became more refined, those offerings might become interesting content that brings television and the Internet together. […] It seems the initiative has received some negative comments but I think that a fan of the show or a particular actor might want the same item that they're wearing. It's all right to sell products to these people.

Genta Iwamoto is resigned:

私はこれは良いと思います。
ってゆうか、こういう方法以外にテレビ局がスポンサーからの収入を
確保する方法ってないんじゃないかな。
少なくても私はこれより良い案ってなかなか思いつきません。

I think this is a good idea. Actually, there isn't any other way for TV stations to secure revenue from sponsors. At least, I can't think of a better solution….

The Kirakira Hikaru Blog praises the show:

このドラマ、あんまり視聴率良くないみたいだけど、私は女性にはオススメ
出演者達の洋服を観るだけでも楽しい
ストレスがたまったり、悩み事があるとす~ぐ洋服やアクセサリー買ってしまう私^^;
まぁ、O型だから仕方あるまい。(血液型のせいかw)
でも、男性であまりお洒落な人と結婚するのはオススメしないww
女性の皆様。みんなで美しくなりましょね♪

I hear the ratings aren't great but I recommend it to women. Just watching the fashion on the show is so much fun!
If I get stressed or worried, I will go out and buy clothes or accessories ^^; Oh well, I'm type O negative. (Okay, maybe I shouldn't blame it on my blood type…)
However, I don't recommend marrying a stylish man!
Ladies, let's all become more beautiful!!

The sales are not bad, or so Cyzo Woman reports:

初回放送時は同ドラマのホームページにアクセスが集中し、サーバがダウン。関西テレビコンプライアンス推進局企業広報部の大平雄司氏は、「初回放送終了後、翌朝10時までに約350点、第3回放送終了後24時までの累計で約2,400点の購入があった。1週間の売上の6~7割が放送当日及び翌日に集中している」と話す。

The server crashed on the first day of the airing due to heavy traffic to the drama's official website. Yuji Ohira from the PR department of the Kansai TV Compliance Committee says “We sold 350 items by 10:00 the morning after the first air date and a total of about 2,400 purchases by the third air date. 60-70% of our sales happen on the air date or the day after.”

What about the effect on actors? Again, RedPen:

最近でこそ状況は少しずつ変わりつつありますが、第一線で活躍する俳優は企業のテレビCMには登場しても、通販番組に登場しませんでした。今回のリアル・クローズは香里奈さんや黒木瞳さんがドラマ仕立ての通販番組に登場するようなもの。色がつくのを極端に嫌う俳優に対する出演料は通常より高く設定しなければ、事務所側も納得できないはず。とはいえ、番組制作費に下げ圧力がかかっていますから、断り切れない事情もあるでしょう。こうした手法がドラマで普及し始めれば、俳優の賞味期限は加速度的に早まっていくことだけは確かです。

It used to be that A-list actors never appeared in teleshopping programs, although they might appear in TV commercials. Real Clothes is a drama-like teleshopping program with Karina-san and Kuroki-san. Their agencies wouldn't agree to having them on the show unless the fee was higher than normal because there is a possibility of becoming tainted. On the other hand, pressure to lower production costs puts agencies in a difficult position to negotiate. If this method becomes popular for drama shows, the ‘expiration rate’ for actors will quickly become shorter and shorter.

All in all, TV stations still have a lot of ground to cover before they find the sweet spot between television and the Internet, and public airwaves and commercialism. The good news is that the public seems to be willing to go along with the ride to experience those experiments. Of course, a lot depends on how refined the undertaking is, like Masahiko mentioned. Referring to the tagline for Real Clothes, “If you wear boring clothes, you will lead a boring life.” (つまらない洋服を着てると、つまらない人生になるわよ), a commenter on the fashion blog Elastic wryly points out:

リアルクローズの意味を知っている人は買わないでしょうね

People who understand the meaning of Real Clothes won't be buying clothes this way.
Thanks to Chris Palmieri for suggesting this topic.

1 comment

  • rr

    Great ending quote. Pretty risky tagline when there isn’t much veiling their lines from asking a consumer to conform to a caste… what could be more boring?

    I wonder if there’s an addon out there for firefox, much like the gmail one that asks you do to math before sending emails late and probably drunkenly, that asks “do you really need this” whenever you click to buy something online. Thankfully, a young life of far too much tv keeps me feeling plenty guilty when I even download tv programs to watch, let alone purchasing items of that particular fandom.

    I’m trying to feel similarly towards the whole offering of “Mad Men” stylized collections, is my desire to purchase these things because of their aesthetics and meaning, or have I merely been trapped by a successful market campaign? Am I (are we) so offended by the “Real Clothes” concept because of its transparency?

    Childrens shows and kids toys have been crafted hand-in-hand for decades now, and while we are often found complaining about the demand it creates, its usually about how hard it is to find a particular toy for a particular child because it is sold out, not because we think it is a devious campaign to turn our young into future consumers.

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