The strategy behind Hakuhodo’s Lion-winning ‘Rice-Code’ campaign

One of the most awarded campaigns from Asia this year at Cannes was Rice-Code for Hakadate Village by Japanese agency giant Hakuhodo.

In this Q&A with Mumbrella Kazuhiro Suda, executive creative director of Japanese advertising agency Hakuhodo, talks about the campaign and its very different approach to QR Codes. 

Where did the idea for Rice-Code come from?The first idea was to invent a souvenir at a beautiful agricultural landscape or a sightseeing place, easy to buy, just like taking a photo of that place. We made it work by creating an app which leads to EC site from image authentication technology.

The rice art is made by several different colours of rice, and the image emerges as the rice grows. It is made by so much handwork. We thought it could be useful if there is service buying the rice harvested there from just taking a photo of it with no heavy baggage, and home delivered directly.

What was the biggest challenge in creating the campaign?

Ageing and declining population, along with drop in sales is the common issue in agricultural cities all over the world not just in Japan. By makind a fusion of Art and Digital technology — which is one of the most distant things from agriculture — ”Rice-code” was a totally new solution, increasing purchasing proportion of rice in such a depopulated villages.

Commiting to the community issues, requires new challenges for advertising, like more sensitive aspects and other strength. But as Japan is facing  depopulation and community corruption, we believe, facing and challenging to this kind of issue is the realisation of Hakuhodo’s statement “Inventing the future.”

It’s an interesting idea, but what do you say to people who might think this idea was created only with awards in mind?

We independently developed this apps called “Nature-barcode” which changes the agricultural and nature landscape to a new selling place by scanning the landscape, leading to its EC site. This year we are still continuing a demonstration experiment with Inakadate Village to improve the accuracy. This apps would be extendable not just to rice but also other agricultural product and sightseeing areas.

We believe, by receiving creative, advertising awards, this apps with hardly low budget of PR would be known in Japan, and all over the world.

Nature-barcode’s apps diffusion would be an future solution for small communities and depopulated village which is hard to have large amount of PR budget. We also belive that social media would be the media for small communities or agricultural products made by hard work, to make more diversity in the future.

How are you measuring the effectiveness of the campaign?

The best effectiveness was to increase tourist population and new buying population to the depopulated agricultural village. If we keep doing agriculture like we did in the past, this new population would have never increase.

Do you have plans to build on the campaign for the long term, or is it a one-off effort?

“Rice-code” would continue in long term. And we think “rice-code” is our first challenge. If possible, we want to make collaboration with fields of wheat, fruit farm, tea garden, stock farm etc.


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