One poster and the title is all you’re getting before How Do You Live? hits theaters, and producer Toshio Suzuki explains why.

There’s an absolutely gigantic anime movie event coming up this summer in the form of How Do You Live? It’s the first traditionally animated Studio Ghibli film in close to a decade (the last one before this being 2014’s When Marnie Was There). It’s also the first anime directed by Hayao Miyazaki since 2013’s The Wind Rises, and with the director now being 82 years old and not a particularly speedy filmmaker, there’s a good chance this will be the last feature-length anime of his career.

But while there’s a lot of anticipation surrounding How Do You Live?, there’s next to no modern marketing “buzz” for it…and that’s a calculated, intentional move by Studio Ghibli veteran producer Toshio Suzuki, who recently explained that the studio has decided to do absolutely no advertising or preview videos for the movie.

As of right now, here’s everything we know about How Do You Live?
It’s a “grand fantasy” story.
● It shares its title with a Japanese novel from 1937, but isn’t an adaptation of the book.
● It’s coming out in Japanese theaters on July 14.

And that’s it. Plot, setting, characters, and even the voice cast are a complete mystery. As for how it’ll look, that’s been kept tightly under wraps too, as Studio Ghibli released a single poster for How Do You Live? (pictured below) back in December, and not a single other visual clue.

So why is Ghibli shunning anything resembling traditional marketing for the movie? Suzuki recently sat down for an interview with Manabu Shintani from Japanese magazine Bungei Shunji to discuss the unorthodox strategy.

“It’s surprising how little promotion is being done for the movie,” Shintani muses as he broaches the subject, to which Suzuki casually replies. “Oh, yeah, we decided not to do any.”

“I mean, how should I put this?”, Suzuki expands. “As part of company operations, Ghibli has wanted people to come see the movies we’ve made. So we’ve thought about that and done a lot of different things for that purpose, but this time we were like ‘Eh, we don’t need to do that.’

“That’s the reason?” asks Shintani, laughing incredulously. “I mean, it really is,” Suzuki answers “Doing the same thing you’ve done before, over and over, you get tired of it. So we wanted to do something different. And in terms of results, we thought it’d be good for the movie industry too.” Shintani points out, though, that fans get excited about having pre-release information for a film, only for Suzuki to counter with:

Right, but why? So you end up going to see a movie just to confirm what you already knew about it?…If that’s how it’s going to be, I figured just one poster is enough [for How Do You Live?].”

Suzuki then goes on to contrast this minimalist approach with that of an upcoming American blockbuster. “There’s an American movie…ah, I almost said the title out loud, coming out this summer, about the same time [as How Do You Live?]. So they’ve made three trailers for it, and released them one at a time. If you watch all three, you know everything that’s going to happen in the movie. So how do moviegoers feel about that? There must be people who, after watching all the trailers, don’t want to go see the movie [anymore]. So I wanted to do the opposite of that.”

Suzuki admits that he was initially thinking of making a second poster for How Do You Live?, but Miyazaki unknowingly changed the producer’s mind. “I’ve been involved with our movies since Nausicaa [released in 1984], but this was the first time Hayao Miyazaki genuinely praised me. ‘Suzuki-san, this is amazing. It’s the best [poster] you’ve ever done,’ he said. I felt like that was a hint, so I decided ‘Let’s go with just this one poster for the marketing.’ So no trailer or TV commercials at all…No newspaper ads either. Deep down inside, I think this is what moviegoers latently desire.”

Despite Miyazaki’s vocal complaints about the pursuit of financial gains, even the director was startled by Suzuki’s no-marketing marketing plan. Walking into a meeting where Suzuki was in the process of explaining it to others, Miyazaki asked “It that plan OK? Not doing any promotion?”, Suzuki recalls, but says “Eventually he came around.” With just the title and a single poster to go off of, Suzuki thinks people’s imaginations will be stirred, and believes that this is something that will make them happy as they wait to see the finished work.

It’s a bold and refreshing approach to marketing, though it comes with a critical point that neither Suzuki nor Shintani brings up. Studio Ghibli, and Hayao Miyzaki in particular, are the most respected animators in Japan, and arguably the entire world. A Miyazaki-directed Ghibli feature pretty much markets itself, as evidenced by the fact that its producer gets booked for an interview and the first question he’s asked is basically “So, why aren’t you doing more advertising for this film that everyone already knows about and wants to see?”

In other words, Suzuki’s one-poster-and-the-title marketing strategy is really something only Ghibli can confidently do, since How Do You Live? is no doubt going to be the kind of film only Ghibli can make.

Source: YouTube/文藝春秋 電子版 via Hachima Kiko
Top image: SoraNews24
Insert image: Studio Ghibli
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!