Van Schoor, the founder of Cape Town-based Pocket Tissue Advertising, came up with the idea after arriving home after having spent three years working in the world's second largest economy. He says that the first time he was handed a pack of branded tissue, it advertised a cell phone service provider. Needing a phone, he followed the map provided on the back of the pack to the nearest store where he purchased his first phone.
“I don't think I have ever bought tissues before but receiving free tissues was such a common feature of daily life in Japan that I began to miss them when I returned home,” he adds. So after 12 months of intensive research and fact-finding missions to Asia, Pocket Tissue Advertising was finally established, and officially began trading in February this year.
According to Van Schoor, pocket tissue advertising is a versatile medium that can be used to target all ages, both genders and any cultural group. Local and national businesses can use them to create and sustain brand recognition and they can also be used to promote political parties, government safety messages, HIV awareness and other educational campaigns.
He says that pocket tissue advertising is used by virtually every industry in Japan, where competition for market share is intense and only the most ingenious strategies assure marketing success. Members of the vast financial sector are the largest beneficiaries of this medium and help contribute to the four billion packs distributed annually, making for a US$ 1 billion dollar industry. Even the Japanese government uses pocket tissue advertising to encourage people to vote and sometimes even publishing portraits of the most wanted criminals.
It started in the 1970s when Japanese banks began giving away branded packs of pocket tissues at their counters. Soon the concept was adopted by other industries and by the late 1980s the country was flooded with tissues advertising everything from beer to petrol. It then spread to other Asian countries and today has become a global trend, with businesses in the US and Europe now exclusively dedicated to producing pocket tissue ads.