Anyone a refreshing change that worked
- The Fire Services Department mascot not only survived a near banning but showed how thinking out of the box can get a message across
What is so special about a man in blue that it has taken Hong Kong by storm within days? Once a publicity disaster facing the axe, the Fire Services Department’s new mascot – a man in a blue full body suit – is now an online sensation, inspiring spin-off of all sorts in other publicity campaigns.
It is true that the unpredictable nature of social media makes online publicity a risky affair. But the reward for the daring can also be surprisingly sweeping, as shown in the department’s unconventional way of using a mascot named Anyone – a real person wearing a Zentai or full body suit to promote the message that anyone can help in emergencies, be it putting out a fire or giving first aid in life-and-death situations. The initial feedback – including the comparison of the mannequin to those in Japanese porn movies – was so negative that the department reportedly wanted to ban the use of the figure. But it turned out that the mascot survived uncensored. Other organisations also rushed to piggyback on its fame and churn out related publicity of their own, including the French consulate use of one for the charity sale of a calendar featuring muscular, shirtless firefighters.
The viral success of Anyone owes much to the department’s courage to innovate and stand firm. Not only has the man-in-blue gone down well with the public, it is being capitalised by others and become the incarnation of a simple but powerful message – anyone can do or help in a particular situation.
The department’s gimmick is a refreshing change from the tried and tested formula long adopted by the government in APIs, or announcements in the public interest. From how to wash one’s hands to the promotion of social harmony, there is a bewildering variety of publicity on television and radio every day. But the approaches are usually conservative, uninspiring or propagandistic, so much so that the messages are often lost or ignored.
It is good that more departments have resorted to unconventional ways of promotion, although the impact is nowhere as strong. But the frenzy over Anyone proves that it pays to think out of the box. With bright ideas and right strategies, anyone will succeed.