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S/mileage Gets Serious, Part II: 10,000 Smile Campaign

Posted on: February 28, 2010

Tsunku, you sly dog, you. In a move that mirrors Momusu’s debut challenge to sell 50,000 copies of “Ai no Tane”, the producer has just issued a similar challenge via VTR to the four girls of S/mileage, whose reactions are priceless:

For those who don’t speak Japanese, the challenge is as follows: in order to make their major debut, the girls of S/mileage need to collect 10,000 smiles – that is, pictures of 10,000 people’s smiling faces from around the country and around the world. They have one month to collect the smiles, at which point they’ll make a giant art mosaic out of it (that’s the part of the video where Tsunku points at the rectangle and makes the machine gun noises).

Can they do it? Of course. UFA and Tsunku have invested so much time and effort in this group that finding 10,000 pictures is a sure thing. The girls already have 1,100 people following the group Mixi community and about 1,500 following their collective Twitters. Even if those are all the same people, then there are all the folks on 2ch and H!O and all of the foreign fan forums, most of whom will enlist their family and probably a few close friends. Sakitty will most likely get the opportunity to plug the campaign on Oha as well. It might not happen within the first day, but they’ll probably have their smiles within three days or so. They probably have the first 2,000 already.

Really, this campaign’s meant to generate publicity and hype outside of the current circle of Hello! Project fans. Most of H!P’s groups have had some exposure this way, but not to the extent that S/mileage has – and they need it, with so many groups out there right now.

In fact, I’m coming to realize that all of H!P needs it. I mean nothing against AKB or H!P but most of the Hello artists’ sales have dropped pretty significantly since around the time RIVER streeted. In terms of past performance, Berryz and Guardians 4 are improving, Momusu is treading water and fighting for sales, and Manoeri, C-ute, and Buono – H!P’s powerhouse favorites of the last few years – have seen a pretty serious drop. H!P has done as much as it can with the familiar names, which most people are writing off without even giving them a chance. So let’s bring in some cute new girls in the hopes that they’ll get people to listen to them AND give our existing groups a chance!

It helps tremendously that the girls themselves don’t seem to think too much about the business side of things. Here’s a video that I’m assuming was taken at the Norimen Live where the campaign was announced to fans:

The girls are honestly nervous. Even though they knew about the challenge from the VTR they’re freaking out during the announcement and several are starting to cry. It looks like they’re going to put forth the work as best they’re able, too – they’ve all posted to their blogs and Twitters about it, and it looks like they made some really cute flyers, like this one from Sakitty’s blog:

How can anyone resist that?

I’ve come to a few conclusions about this campaign and the events of the past few days. First, S/mileage is not the new flagship group of Hello! Project. They’ve been tasked with a pretty big project to get started, but it’s nowhere near the magnitude of Morning Musume’s 50,000 single challenge. Second (and related), I think the debut of S/mileage is supposed to have a resonant effect with the other Hello! groups by making H!P new, relevant, and interesting again. Associative coolness, right?

I wonder how much is going on that we don’t know about or understand. Perhaps the big push for Airi in C-ute has something to do with Nakky appearing in Momusu’s play. Maybe the auditions for Momusu’s play have something to do with 9th gen. Maybe Nakky has something to do with 9th gen. Maybe the Norimen live does. Whatever this grand plan is, it has been in motion for, what, about a year now, and it’s only recently that we really start to see the gears turning…

…man, Tsunku, you drive me up a wall at times but I LOVE you. (In a completely platonic way.) It’s going to be a crazy year but if nothing else it’ll be a fantastic show and I’m looking forward to it.

P.S. If you want to submit your smile, click here. The red button in the middle is for computer uploads – first field on the page is your email address, second is age, third is gender (the one that looks like a guy with a box for a head is male), then click the ticky box to subscribe to their email magazine. Second page confirms your data. Upload on the third page, then check your inbox to complete your submission!

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