In Japan, manga is more than just entertainment; there is an incredible range of educational manga, from business textbooks to Tsundere Linux, in which big-eyed little girls tenderly introduce the reader to … Linux.
So what Pfizer has done is quite logical: They have put a manga up on their site about a guy who uses one of their products. Viagra.
Nisemono?, which ComiPress translates as “Fake?” is only in Japanese, so it’s a little hard to follow. It seems to begin with the hero ostentatiously taking one of the little blue pills in his company’s boardroom, a scene that illustrates why I love manga so much: just taking a pill is a dramatic event, with fist-shaking and changing background colors and lots of sound effects. Even if you’re not sure what’s going on, it’s fun to watch. Then our hero goes off and talks to a pretty girl for a while and has coffee with his skeevy friend, who is obviously giving him bad relationship advice. Some things transcend language.
The second episode is rather sweet: The main character is sitting at the computer in his pajamas, when he runs across a website that looks suspiciously like Pfizer’s. This is clearly a revelation to him. Later on, the cat wakes him up by licking his face, and he goes into the living room to find his wife tapping away on the computer. They have sort of a tense discussion, then a moment of happiness in the glow of the screen, and then he loses his temper and they turn away from each other. Again, despite the language difference, it’s not hard to imagine the conversation. (“Four hours?!?”)
In the third episode, after a visit to the doctor’s office, our man pops a pill, flashes a thumbs-up to the readerâ€”no, nothing Freudian thereâ€”and sweeps his lady into his arms. Then they stand on the balcony in the rain, his friend gives him more advice, his boss slaps him on the back… OK, I’ll admit, they lost me there. But it’s still fun to watch.
The manga is by a well-known Japanese creator, Hiroshi Motomiya, whose Salaryman Kintaro is a big seller in Japan. Unlike the little comic strips that accompany ads in the U.S., Nisemono has some real storytelling to it, with consistent characters and a lot of cute byplay with the couple’s cat. The art is nice, too, and it’s well presented, with a manga reader that’s easy to use and doesn’t get in the way.
I’m not sure how well it works as advertising, but in the first two days the comic was up, Pfizer’s Japanese site got as much traffic as it had the whole previous month, so it’s attracting eyeballs if nothing else.
UPDATE: Karim at Vertical, Inc., actually read the comic, and it’s funnier than I thoughtâ€”apparently the guy pops some fake Viagra and gets explosive diarrhea, then has to tell his female doctor about it.