Cased 2015 winner: SKYNBUN

Cased 2015 winner: SKYNBUN

Case Study By
February 2015–April 2015
Project Title
  • Executive creative director: Michael Sheetal
  • Creative director: Hiroaki Adachi
  • Art director: Jinshi Itomi
  • Logo typography: Takafumi Miki
  • Designers: Kana Saechout, Mayumi Shelly, Christina Chu
  • Strategy director: Marc Wesseling
  • Planner and headline copywriting: Marina Nakagawa
  • Digital planner: Shimpei Kimura
  • Web developer: Nathan Thorpe, Ludovic Prandi, Takanori Iseki
  • Web designer: Masaaki Takesue
  • Case video director: Jensen Barnes
  • Case video editor: Seong Hye Kim
  • Lead account manager: Keisuke Takaso
  • Account manager: Yuko Nakamura
  • Account supervisor: Tomo Murakami

Most people are aware of Japan’s declining birthrate, but many are oblivious to the national trend of people retreating from sex. When Ansell approached us wanting to introduce a condom called SKYN to the Japanese market, we saw it as the perfect opportunity to engage people with the topic of sex in Japan.

Central to our solution was the design of an original newspaper publication called SKYNBUN—a pun on the pronunciation of the Japanese word for newspaper, “shinbun.” We devised an illustrated style that allowed us to communicate sensitive topics without being too explicit.

Three editions were designed with stimulating themes to celebrate and promote sex education, health, and culture. The size, form, content, and distribution encouraged couples to get close and read together. The physical paper was also supplemented by digital content, including an original mobile game to be played as a couple.

Ultimately, SKYNBUN managed to create a face for the SKYN brand that was sensitive to cultural concerns and social needs while achieving the marketing goals of the product.


In Japan, birthrates and interests in sex have been declining for years and Japan is commonly considered as having the lowest rate of sex in the world. This phenomenon is led by the growth of the “sexless” members of society who neither desire nor enjoy sex. Consequentially, levels of happiness, health, and social interaction have suffered, and the trend has caused major imbalances in the demographics of Japan. It is now considered a serious social issue by the government and community groups.

Our mission was to conceive and execute a launch campaign for SKYN utilizing a variety of methods that fuel and complement each other. We also seized the chance to concurrently foster healthy sex lives and attitudes toward sex. The goal was to develop SKYN brand awareness among 25- to 45-year-old men and women, with the primary target being the sexually mature and active “salaryman” living and working in the Tokyo area.



Cover of the “Creativity Edition” of “SKYNBUN”


Cover of the “Lifestyle & Health Edition” of “SKYNBUN”


Cover of the “Mood Edition” of “SKYNBUN”


The newspaper being distributed in key areas in Tokyo


A view of “SKYNBUN”—our sampling strategy for SKYN condoms


Various page spreads


Views of “SKYNBUN” on various digital platforms


The newspaper in its packaging


The smartphone game, which asks questions to determine a couple’s sexual compatibility


Though the market is highly competitive, it is mostly focused on thin types of condoms. SKYN condoms use a unique rubber called polyisoprene that is not thin, but feels very much like real skin. The sector has seen an overall decrease in market size due to the declining rates of sex and poor awareness of safe sex practices. For this reason, other competitors in the market are also trying to reach the same consumers, each with their own design and communication approach.


Development budget: Confidential/not available
This project is: Neither a retainer nor an in-house, ongoing monitoring relationship
Production/execution budget: Confidential/not available
Source of funding: Client


Our approach to this project was based on the behavior around the purchase of condoms in Japan and the competitor analysis. When we considered the marketplace, competing brands all seemed to target either men or women, but not couples, so we saw an opportunity to appeal to this core demographic, despite SKYN’s desired target being the urban male.

Of couples who have sex less than once per month, 77 percent rarely or never discuss the topic. By avoiding the problem, these couples have given up the chance to solve it. So we created engaging and informative content for couples to explore together, thereby opening up the conversation of sex in a healthy, informative, and fun way. We designed the themes, content, and tone in a manner geared toward sexually mature men and women, with the intent for them to enjoy the campaign together. Inspired by the material of the condom, we developed the message “Let’s have a softer relationship.” When communicated in Japanese, this has the additional meaning of being open and honest about your interests and desires.


We found that, of consumers who tested the product, 97 percent would recommend it. This incredibly high figure reinforced the idea of sampling the product to consumers. However, because distributing condoms in Japan is considered insensitive, we would have to formulate a different approach.

In addition to industry research, we conducted extensive design research into the way sexual topics were communicated in Japanese magazines and online. This allowed us to identify core interest areas and some unique local trends. We also looked into the best way to deliver sexual content to a Japanese consumer in a market where explicit photography is often perceived as confrontational and, in many cases, is illegal due to strict censorship laws. Thus we identified an illustrated format as both inoffensive and enabling in terms of the topics we could introduce.

For the newspaper layout, we looked at various sizes, papers, and forms, and finally settled on a format that was easy to share with a partner, but not so large as to be embarrassing or invasive in public. Digitally we established that our primary interaction would be via smartphone, but with consumption via tablet, laptop, and desktop also available.


We employed a visual style aimed at making the subject matter easy to interact with and consume. Considering the explicit forms of presenting sexual content online, our approach was drastically different. The style implemented is more like lifestyle content than sexual content in its visual presentation.

This approach was necessary from a cultural perspective, where a Japanese consumer is likely to become embarrassed to receive blatantly sexual content. Our design constraints were primarily focused on these social stigmas, and we strove to find the right balance between the image of the paper and the impact with the consumer. The client was a great collaborator in this case, supportive of steps to ensure that the imagery and content evolved to a form suitable for Japan.

We released three editions of SKYNBUN: “Creativity,” “Mood,” and “Lifestyle & Health.” “Creativity” includes content that suggests ways to add spice to a couple’s sex life. “Mood” offers various methods of engaging all one’s senses and creating a sensual atmosphere. “Lifestyle & Health” introduces the benefits of having sex and provides information on how increase of sexual activity can improve one’s overall quality of life.


Developing the content for this project posed the largest challenge. Keeping the cultural limitations in mind, we still needed to push our writers to find an edge rather than play it safe. Once the writing had found its voice, we then had to balance it with the design treatment to bring a resolved experience to the reader.

For example, one of our stories revolves around sex toys—some fairly innocent, some a little more risqué. The design needed to present these items in a form that was easy to see but gave the reader a little surprise when reading the details. Illustrating each of the toys rather than a depiction of the situation in which they’d be used allowed us to achieve that balance.


The production of SKYNBUN not only managed to increase awareness and sales for SKYN condoms but has also established a voice for the brand in the Japanese market. Previously the brand’s marketing was implemented with a very western style that had little relevance in Japan.

Our solutions to the cultural concerns surrounding the consumption of our content were so successful that we were able to extend the campaign through further distribution as a special insert in one of the most popular women’s lifestyle magazines in Japan. In fact, the biggest increase in the sale of the product was with female consumers, broadening the reach from the initial target of urban men.

SKYN has reported an overall 50 percent increase in sales and an establishment of the baseline of consumers repeat purchasing, indicating a strong brand affinity. Circulation of the physical newspaper reached 20,000 people in the initial run, and online there were approximately 200,000 hits.

Opening up avenues for discussing the health of sexual relationships has been a big win for this project, and places the focus not only on advertising but also on a little-addressed social issue.

Additional Information

Secret Review

Nifty Business


Yuhan Ameba

Juror Comments

“After reading about the cultural hurdles surrounding sex in Japan, this piece felt overwhelmingly successful in its candor and irreverence. The one caveat: I found the editorial design at complete odds with the brand—from typography to inherent character, the newsprint seemed as though it was abandoning its client brand altogether, taking on an entirely new fresh look that didn’t recognize where it came from.” Sara Frisk

“I am a big fan this publication series. You can tell everyone involved had fun with the process and the final printed pieces while challenging themselves and the viewers into a new ‘comfort zone.’ While the packaging of the condoms feels disassociated with the publication brand they are creating, which was a topic of heated debate during judging, I think it is a great way to challenge and inform a new generation of sex-lovers in a society that keeps mum about the topic.” Bryony Gomez-Palacio

Tags Inspiration Competition Case study Cased