Much Ado About a Cough Drop Gives a Medicine Maker Ideas

Society

When a Kumamoto municipal assembly member was forced to leave the chamber for asking a question while she had a cough drop in her mouth, the well-known cough-medicine company Ryūkakusan tweeted a tongue-in-cheek video advertising a cough tablet that can be used “on the quiet.” We asked them why they opted for the not-so-oblique reference to the assembly incident.

Ryūkakusan is a well-known seller of cough remedies, with a nearly 200-year history of preparing and selling herbal throat lozenges and candies in Japan. Despite this seemingly stodgy pedigree, the brand has been building internet buzz thanks to an incident that occurred at the Kumamoto municipal assembly on September 28 this year.

Ogata stands before the dais as the assembly chair asks whether she has something in her mouth while she speaks.

It all began when assemblywoman Ogata Yūka stood up to ask a question and was scolded by the assembly chair for sucking on a cough drop while she spoke. The incident sparked such an uproar the chair had to call a recess.

Ogata protested that she was sucking on a Ryūkakusan candy to stop a coughing fit and meant no disrespect, but she was still ordered to leave the chamber.

The assemblywoman leaves the chamber after being shouted down for the lozenge in her mouth.

This was not Ogata’s first time to make the national media for an uproar in the Kumamoto assembly. On November 22 last year, she appeared in session carrying her infant son, in part to call attention to the lack of childcare facilities for working mothers. Assembly rules call for all not people who are not representatives to be in the observer seats; assemblymen insisting that the rules be followed to the letter would not allow proceedings to continue until the baby was handed to Ogata’s friend sitting in the spectator area, and the uproar delayed deliberations by nearly an hour that day.

On October 5, after the cough-drop commotion was widely reported by the media, Ryūkakusan posted a video on its official Twitter account advertising a new product line.

“When that big speech or presentation is coming up and you want your throat to feel its best, try a Ryūkakusan Nodo Sukkiri tablet. Smaller than a cough drop, so you’ll be able to talk with it in your mouth!”

“By the way, I had one of those tablets in my mouth while I was speaking just now,” says the model as she smiles into the camera.

The hashtag attached to the ad for this tiny cough lozenge, just 8 millimeters across, has a pointed meaning: “#refresh your throat without leaving the chamber.” As of this translation, the video has already been viewed nearly 3 million times.

Twitter users were quick to praise the PR video. “Way to go, Ryūkakusan! I’m all for you,” said one. There was praise for the company for its humorous take on an incident that had bloomed into a social issue, and others urged the medicine maker to produce still more municipal-assembly-themed ads.

We asked Ryūkakusan’s director of product development about the Twitter ad.

“Well, it seemed that our cough candy was the cause of all the fuss, so we just wanted to let people know that we have a tablet to soothe your throat without anyone noticing. It didn’t seem right that our cough candy should be the bad guy. It is possible, after all, to take care of a sore throat while still showing good manners.”

(Originally published in Japanese on FNN’s Prime Online on October 10, 2018. Translated by Nippon.com.)

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