NEW YORK (Kyodo) -- Representatives from Japanese entertainment powerhouse Yoshimoto Kogyo Co., advertising giant Dentsu Inc. and the United Nations recently highlighted their joint efforts to make the Japanese public aware of the international body's social development work around the globe.
The United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals, a set of 17 objectives to be achieved by 2030, aim to lift millions out of poverty, end hunger, make cities more sustainable and tackle climate change, among other critical world problems.
Speaking at a two-day civil society conference that ran through Thursday in New York, Miyabi Haneda of Yoshimoto Kogyo recalled her company's motivation for joining the project two years ago following outreach from Kaoru Nemoto, the Tokyo director of the U.N. Information Center.
"We wanted to collaborate with the SDGs to make the world a better place with a lot of smiles," said Haneda, who serves as the talent agency's general manager of corporate communications.
"We figured out that our comedians are the perfect messengers to help spread the meaning of the goals in their own comedic ways."
Among the company's A-listers participating in the campaign is Naomi Watanabe, a sketch comedy star best known for her lip-synching impersonations of Beyonce, Lady Gaga and other pop idols. Watanabe's huge social media following earned her a spot on this year's Time magazine list of the 25 most influential people on the internet.
"The SDGs were hardly known in Japan, and I thought that to allow us, the U.N., to reach out to the general public, we need good storytellers," Nemoto explained.
"It is the people's agenda, so that is why it is really important to reach out to the general public," she added.
Haneda described some of her company's efforts to popularize the goals, such as a promotion at the 2017 Okinawa International Film Festival where famous Japanese actors were enlisted to carry placards of the individual goals while walking a red carpet on Naha's main street.
Also shown as part of the presentation were two catchy black and white videos produced by Dentsu. The brief skits are part of a series introducing the SDGs through light-hearted interactions at a coffee shop.
In one video, friends come up with a plan to pour excess ice from their drinks into the ocean to combat the melting of ice caps, while in another a young woman takes the SDGs as 17 personal goals and tells her boyfriend she no longer has time for dating.
Reiko Kunieda of Dentsu drew on some of her company's market research to explain Japanese public perception of the U.N. initiative.
In a survey of 1,400 people carried out in Japan earlier this year, the company determined that only around 15 percent of respondents were aware of the development goals.
However, Kunieda noted that roughly 70 percent of those questioned indicated some level of support for pursuing the international targets, which she viewed as a positive.
In light of such research, Dentsu intends to keep finding creative ways to educate Japan about the goals for the betterment of society as a whole, she said.
While the U.N. Information Center in Tokyo had worked with advertisers and entertainment companies separately, Nemoto told Kyodo News that the recent collaboration is the first time for the three to join forces so as to more effectively "share with the world."