News & Views

Protoleaf / Soil Restaurant

by Contagious Team

Japanese soil brand cooks up a dirty six-course dinner

Challenge / Japanese brand Protoleaf wanted to proove that its organic gardening soil was safe, in light of Japanese consumers' concerns about soil safety following the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011. The soil brand tasked agency TBWA\Hakuhodo, Tokyo, with creating a PR campaign to get this message across. 

Solution / Protoleaf collaborated with Michelin-starred, French-trained chef Toshio Tanabe, of gourmet Tokyo restaurant Ne Quittez Pas, to create a six-course menu with soil as main ingredient. The menu, which cost $110 a head, featured dirty gastronomic delights from Potato Starch and Soil Soup to Flounder and Risotto with Dirt. 

Results / The so-called Soil Restaurant campaign was widely reported on in Japan, and picked up by news outlets in more than 20 countries, including CNN, the Guardian, and the Discovery Channel. 

TBWA\Hakuhodo reported $8.9m in earned media and a 34% increase in sales during the campaign period.

Contagious Insight   

This campaign is likely more appropriate for food-obsessed Japan than any other country; chefs like Heston Blumenthal may have led the worldwide surge in creative dining, but Tokyo still happens to reign as the Michelin Guide's World Gourmet Capital. Protoleaf found people willing to fork over $110 to eat dirt, whereas they might have had more trouble if they attempted the campaign in another region. 

It's easy to see the PR appeal here; creating a soil-based menu that takes dirt beyond mudcakes in the playground is a headline-grabbing idea. This is an interesting example of a trend that we've labelled Product Demo Evolved, which involves brands showcasing product benefits in innovative ways. Here, Protoleaf is proving the safety of its product in way that is both easy to understand (it's safe enough to eat) and doesn't feature any negative associations of mentioning the Fukushima disaster or nuclear radiation.

This story originally appeared on Contagious Feed. Contagious Feed is our bespoke trends, inspiration, insight and analysis service, providing daily innovative marketing intelligence across a comprehensive range of sectors to brands and agencies across the world. For more information about Contagious Feed contact