Cannes Lions

Google Assistant Haunted house

HAKUHODO INC., Tokyo / GOOGLE / 2019

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Many Japanese people are shy and reluctant to speak out loud, especially in public spaces. This cultural barrier made it difficult for the voice-activated Google Assistant to be adopted in Japan, even among the more tech-savvy millennials where the usage rate was only 8%. That led us to think of a way to create a catalyst for young people to try the Google Assistant in a comfortable environment where they aren't afraid to speak out loud and, in fact, have fun doing it. We wanted to create the perception among millennials that it is fun to say "OK Google" to trigger the Google Assistant and ask it for help.


In order to create a more comfortable environment for Japanese people to raise their voices, we created a voice-activated Haunted House, powered by the Google Assistant. Haunted houses are one of the few unique places in Japan that elicit loud, uncensored reactions from Japanese people and there is a long-standing tradition in Japan to do scary things in the summer.

However, we didn't just build a traditional haunted house. To target millennials in Tokyo, we created the world's cutest haunted house in the summer of 2018. By saying various "Ok Google" commands, visitors were able to trigger the immersive experiences in each room of the haunted house.


The target was to capture the interest of millennials/affluent influences first by creating an event that will spread on social media. We designed the event venue with research on what experiences or backdrops Instagram Story users would find attractive and designed an immersive experience with sound, visuals, taste, and consumer engagement to trigger the experiences in the event. As a media, video is the best way to convey the experience, which led us to design a brand experience to buzz on Instagram Stories, instead of regular Instagram. As planned, the Voice-Activated Haunted House was posted on stories by famous Japanese influencers and millennials.


In Summer 2018, we opened the Voice-Activated Haunted House for a limited time only (2 weeks) at Harajuku, Tokyo, which is considered to be one of the most affluent areas in Tokyo for millennials and fashion. We prepared a high quality, cute or "Kawaii" experience that would buzz on Instagram Stories. Furthermore, we displayed a total of 48 OOH advertisements at train stations near the venue. By saying “OK Google, take me to the haunted house” to Google Assistant on smartphones, a monster in the Google Assistant UI would respond by giving directions and issuing visitors an entry ticket. By influencing the entire town of Harajuku and the people there, we were able to reach scale far beyond Harajuku with the event buzzing on nationwide media and Instagram Stories of key influencers in Japan.


5,000 people visited the event with 17,000 newly activated Google Assistant, increasing the unaided awareness of the brand up to 15.5% (2x increase). Many young people rushed to the event after seeing Instagram Stories posted by influencers who visited the place. The event received nationwide news coverage, and the Google Assistant became one of Tokyo's youth culture in the summer of 2018. The perception was created among millennials that it was fun to say "OK Google" with an 18% decrease in hurdle towards voice-activated devices and doubled usage for the Google Assistant.

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