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Hong Kong rescue services

Hong Kong organisations rush to piggyback on viral success of Anyone mascot on social media

  • Government departments, NGOs and even the French consulate garner hundreds of Facebook likes with posts referring to popular blue figure
PUBLISHED : Thursday, 08 November, 2018, 10:54am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 November, 2018, 1:07pm

Government departments, non-profit groups and even the French consulate in Hong Kong are piggybacking on the viral success of the fire service’s mascot Anyone by making social media posts involving the now-familiar blue figure.

“The French firefighters have no mascot, but they have a calendar! Every year, French firefighters sell calendars to raise funds for associations … Anyone can buy one to show their support,” a post on the Consulate General of France in Hong Kong and Macau’s Facebook page said.

The post displayed the cover of the 2019 calendar – featuring muscular shirtless firefighters – and attracted more than 1,000 likes and 460 shares, unlike other posts on the page, which had about a dozen likes on average. The calendar costs 20 (US$22.80) on Amazon.

Anyone, a mannequin-like figure that first appeared in cartoon form in the fire service’s promotional materials, shot to fame after a live-action version of the mascot appeared at a press conference on Monday to demonstrate life-saving techniques. The idea behind the name is that any member of the public can help in times of danger.

Media reports on Tuesday night said higher-ups in the department were no longer allowing actors to play the role, insisting that Anyone appear only in cartoon form.

News of the ban was refuted by a senior department official on Wednesday morning, but not before hundreds of internet users had called on the fire service to reverse the decision.

Meanwhile, non-profit organisations and other government departments were quick to capitalise on the blue mascot’s new-found fame.

On Monday night, the Environment Bureau’s Big Waster, a character used to promote its Food Wise campaign, appeared in a Facebook post in a tight blue outfit resembling Anyone’s.

“Anyone can take part in environmental protection events,” the caption said. The post drew 2,300 likes.

On Tuesday night, Hong Kong police posted a cartoon of officers holding hands with a blue figure.

“Anyone can be a crime buster! Fight crime together!” the post said, drawing more than 900 likes.

The Hong Kong Observatory and Hong Kong Red Cross also made Facebook posts featuring Anyone on Tuesday and Wednesday respectively, again garnering hundreds of positive responses.

The use of mascots to promote various public service messages is not new to government departments, though many of these characters have not attracted the same degree of attention as Anyone.

They include the Department of Health’s Healthy League, which consists of seven mascots promoting cancer prevention; Water Save Dave from the Water Supplies Department; and Housing Protector and Housing Abuser from the Housing Department.

“Keep clean ambassador” Ah Tak, a green dragon representing the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, will be next to make a bid for the limelight.

The civic-minded mascot, who sports blue overalls and loves cleanliness, will perform a rap about rodent control at this year’s Clockenflap, the annual music festival that takes place in Hong Kong this week.

Anthony Fung Ying-him, a professor of journalism and communications at Chinese University, said unconventional campaigns, including the posts riding on Anyone’s fame, were better able to deliver messages of public interest because they did not follow “traditional and conservative styles of government propaganda”.

But while the audience might find the department mascots cool or funny, he said, the public’s affection for the characters might do little to increase their confidence in the government itself.

“Hong Kong people have been through a lot and might have become disillusioned about [the possibility of] serious change, ranging from preserving local heritage to cooling down the property market,” Fung said.