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Kyoto Government Under Fire for Paying Celebrities $9,000 to Promote the City

The plan backfired because they didn’t disclose that their posts were sponsored.

Social media campaigns have proven to be an effective marketing strategy, but they can just as easily backfire when done wrong. That’s what happened in Japan, when celebrities hired by the Kyoto government to promote the city failed to disclose that their tweets were sponsored.

City officials have admitted that they paid Miki, the comedy duo made up of brothers Kosei and Asei Miki, JPY1 million ($9,188) to talk about their hometown on social media.


The duo posted four tweets doing this in October 2018 but did not mark them as promotions. They also did not mention the deal between the Kyoto government and their agency Yoshimoto Kogyo Co, Kyodo News reported. City officials are now being criticised for using public funds for a stealth marketing campaign.

The agreement was signed by the city and the agency in 2018 as part of a larger promotional package worth JPY4.2 million ($38,589.60). The agency was to form a group of artists who will promote the city's cultural events.

Miki’s posts talked about topics like the city’s subway and the Kyoto International Film and Art Festival. They also encouraged residents to buy local products to get tax benefits.

"Anyone who loves Kyoto can support the city of Kyoto," one of the tweets read in Japanese, with a link to the city's “hometown tax” donation program.

According to a local official, they decided to use social media to drive interest among young people because they have been struggling to reach this demographic.

"We did not do it with the intent to confuse people by trying to make something seem more valuable than it is," the representative said, adding that the deal between the comedians and the city was clear since their posts used a hashtag made specifically for their campaign with the talent agency.

Makiko Kawakita, a professor and expert in consumer feeds and public relations from Nanzan University told Kyodo News that "it is crucial to make it obvious that a tweet is a product placement" when it is posted for promotional purposes. She said that failing to do so may give consumers the “wrong impression." She added that artists should be more aware of the impact of social media and that if they are not careful, their image may be negatively impacted.


While influencer marketing can be effective for a city’s campaign, another public relations professor from Hokkaido University, Michio Kitamura, criticised the amount of money the city spent for a few tweets, saying it was “extremely expensive" and "out of touch with the general public."

The local official disagrees and said the cost was “appropriate.”

Celebrities around the world have been criticised for the same issue, including Beyonce, Kim Kardashian, Justin Bieber, and Kendall Jenner who have been accused of not following United States laws on social media promotions.

Conversion rate: JPY1 = $0.0092

Photo by Su San Lee on Unsplash

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