After a seven-year self-imposed TV ad suspension, company shows images of relaxed families and offers cute bunny character merchandise.

Ever since the Fukushima nuclear disaster caused by the massive earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in 2011, the Tokyo Electric Power Company’s name has been frequently heard on TV. However, that’s not necessarily the company’s doing.

Following the disaster, TEPCO (as the company is also known) voluntarily suspended its promotional advertising. It wasn’t until the spring of 2016 that it resumed Internet and in-train prints ads, and it only began taking out advertising space in newspapers again four months ago. Now, TEPCO has restarted its TV advertising, with a new commercial that just began airing on Tokyo area networks on July 18.

▼ The first 15 seconds of the video below show TEPCO’s new commercial.

Unsurprisingly, the commercial contains no imagery or references to Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, which has been shut down. However, according to ANN News, it does mention the improved safety and security measures at Niigata Prefecture’s Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant, which is also operated by TEPCO.

▼ Scenes from the commercial

Primarily, though, the commercial is to promote TEPCO’s new bundled electricity/gas service. In a telling example of how marketing seems to be back to business as usual for the company, it’s also rolled out a new cute mascot character, named Tepkon, who’s a rabbit with lightning bolt cheeks and flaming ears.

▼ Tepkon does not appear within the TV ad

▼ And yes, there’s an assortment of cute Tepkon merchandise, such as pot holders, towels, and tote bags, that you can get if you sign up for TEPCO’s service.

As for why TEPCO’s getting back into television advertising, analysts point to the company’s loss of some 3.19 million clients since the latest round of electricity sales liberalization, with the strong mental association with the Fukushima incident likely a strong contributing factor. For the 2016 fiscal year, TEPCO’s electricity sales were down roughly 20 percent compared to their 2010 level.

While some might be quick to condemn TEPCO’s ad as a blatant attempt to swell its coffers, the company is claiming a more altruistic motivation as well. The costs of dealing with the after math of the Fukushima disaster, including decommissioning the power plant and various compensation payments, are estimated to be 22 trillion yen (US$196 billion). That’s not a sum a company can easily scape together in the face of plummeting sales, and so TEPCO Energy Partner, a subsidiary of TEPCO, says that raising revenue is necessary in order for the company to fulfil its financial responsibilities related to the Fukushima disaster.

Whether or not consumers will feel swayed by the new ad, or the promise of bunny swag, remains to be seen.

Sources: Tere Asa News via Jin, YouTube/ANNnewsCH, Nihon Keizai Shimbun, PR Times
Images: PR Times