Uniqlo Projector / Tokyo
Whimsical widget wins Best of Show in One Show Interactive.

Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo has been having a fine couple of years of late. After having nearly imploded in the early 2000s—due largely to over-expansion and problems with the products—it is having a remarkable Phoenix-like rise from the ashes. Thanks to a shift in marketing focus, a radical redesign, a raft of new products and a renewed emphasis on the digital domain, it has resurfaced with its sights firmly focused on a global renaissance of sorts.

Much of this recent success can be credited to its extensive integrated marketing efforts on the Web, and in particular, to the stunning, engaging and ambitious viral ad campaign called UNIQLOCK. Created by Tokyo-based production boutique Projector, it is an interconnecting Website blending graphics, performance art—over 100 different short films of dance—a global blog, and a continuous modern jazz-music loop provided by Fantastic Plastic Machine. Playfully ingenious, at its heart is a simple clock that can be downloaded as a screensaver, or placed on individual blogs to give the time and location of the writer. Thus far it has won just about every award going, including Best of Show at One Show Interactive.

Koichiro Tanaka, Projector’s creative director, was first approached by Uniqlo back in May of 2006. “Initially, they asked me to work as a brain,” he says. It was while doing exactly that, as well as working on new directions for their digital strategies, that he came up with the idea of UNIQLOCK. “UNIQLOCK is a perfect hybrid of media, function and expression, which was just the right approach to carry on the mission,” he says. That mission, in short, was to deliver a fresh, portable, relevant experience that global audiences could share via an integrated campaign on the Web and Uniqlo’s Website.

It was a complex, ambitious and challenging undertaking with some 40 to 50 people from different genres and disciplines working on it. And, because almost every imaginable type of media experience was involved, from dance to music, to video, “Even a minor discrepancy could cause an inconsistent experience. On the other hand, if all elements are formed in an order, then that creates simplicity,” says Tanaka. “The order in UNIQLOCK is an algorithm in a clock, which is a universal language.” For him, personally, he adds, the biggest challenge was just to understand and translate the different languages and establish an order.

Tanaka himself started out producing TV commercials, short films, motion graphics, Web content/applications and art event, etc. In 2004, he co-founded Projector with his partner, who specializes in producing fashion and art events. They work by teaming up with freelancers, production companies, system engineering companies and design companies. “Projector (Pro, ject, or) means people who make projects into a form,” he explains. Viewed over 116 million times and counting, by visitors from 212 counties, UNIQLOCK has done wonders for the Uniqlo brand. It has helped it evolve its somewhat downmarket, low-cost image into a chic, upmarket and internationally known retailer. It has also added to Japan’s relatively new credentials as the latest innovative center of design.

Tanaka’s currently working on new ways of enhancing Uniqlo’s worldwide popularity on the Web and connecting the company with its customers. As for the future, “UNIQLO represents Japan’s communications potential,” he says. “My goal is to create new projects that expand such potential. For Projector, I’d like to work with foreign clients, agencies and creators, to see if Projector’s approach could work internationally. I also dream of living in different countries like a Nomad. I guess I need to learn English first.” Well, it couldn’t do any harm.

| More