Drive-by Marketing, Then and Now

130328_1424The Yaki Imo truck has plied the streets of Tokyo long enough that no one seems to question the wisdom of a wood fired oven crackling in the bed of a mini truck. “Imo” means sweet potato, and “yaki” can describe almost any kind of hot cooking: fried, baked, grilled, or burned. In this case, oversized red sweet potatoes are slowly roasted on coals as the truck putts down side streets, a common sight on cold winter nights. The business is older than the automobile itself, and even the yaki imo song sounds antique, as if the driver has a gramophone perched on the passenger seat. The crackly voice croons:

“Roasted Sweet Potato, Roasted Sweet Potato, Stone-baked Sweet Potato”

130326_1442In the past year, a new kind of restaurant has taken its message to the streets. To hype the launch of Tokyo’s first “Robot Restaurant,” in which customers can eat while watching bikini-clad women battle in Gundam-style fembots, a fleet of ad trucks has been circling the city. A yellow hummer follows behind each ad truck, towing a trailer with two giant sexy bots on it. My office happens to be on the convoy’s regular afternoon route, overlooking an intersection with a nice long traffic light. Every day around 3 pm the trucks make their round, reminding us once again of the wonders that await at the Robot Restaurant:

“Roboto, Roboto, Re-su-to-rant, Roboto, Roboto, Officially Open!”

 

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