Before we proceed let’s make one point very clear…AKB48 and the management around them are geniuses. The entire hook of AKB48…”idols you can meet” with an underlying fantasy of creating a “personal” connection with whichever member you fancy… is brilliant from the perspective of bringing in customers willing to stick it out with the group. The group has emphasized this strange personal side excellently, what with the various handshake events and the creepy voyeuristic bend newer videos have taken (“Heavy Rotation’s” peeping through a keyhole bit jumps out). It’s creepy, it’s a little disturbing and it should go into some sort of marketing hall of fame…they’ve managed to feed a certain type of hardcore fan a total illusion just perfect that they will buy whatever they are commanded to. AKB48 are the Michael Vick of the J-Pop marketing world, making us rethink how to go about doing this.
So…I think they just went and pushed to the zaniest extreme yet. AKB48 are starting an Internet Service Provider business. No, really. Asiajin has a good summary of what the plan is. The stuff that follows is more disturbing, but honestly the ISP bit ends up being the most genuinely surprising thing about this.
So how they market this new service you, fair reader, are surely thinking. Well…with the above image, which features member Yuko Oshima holding a baby suckling away on her breast. The tagline – “will you make a baby with me?” My initial reaction:
Besides being able to become an official AKB48 fan club member and the opportunity to buy an e-mail address featuring your favorite member’s sub domain, getting on this deal also nets you the “AKBaby” application which isn’t anything groundbreaking…lord knows how many banner ads I’ve seen in the past month advertising a similar “service”…but pretty creepy! It allows you to choose an AKB48 member and see what your child would look by merging a photo of you with her. Just…amazing.
Naturally, I’m still convinced (convincing myself?) this is a joke. The strongest evidence I have for this is the photo they chose for the “you” section of the AKBaby explanation, a rather hefty-looking fellow which seemingly plays into every otaku stereotype conjured up by the Internet. I mean…AKB48 wouldn’t sorta laugh in the face of their fans would they? Or..maybe they are so convinced this will sell regardless of how they portray their fans they just ran with it? I don’t know what’s real anymore.
Bonus points to the first person to write a thinkpiece about this connecting to Japan’s birthrate problem!