Hack The Rules by The Fable

Hack The Rules by The Fable



The Challenge

“The Fable” is a Japanese manga about a legendary hitman, which enjoys a strong cult following but has remained somewhat unknown to the general public. 

Kodansha, the publisher, sought to amplify The Fable’s presence across Japan and achieve nationwide recognition. So they asked TBWA\HAKUHODO to devise an innovative and impactful strategy to promote the latest issue. The goal: to stir significant public interest and expand the manga’s audience—all while avoiding the strict advertising regulations in Japan, given that The Fable’s most iconic action scenes involve guns and violence.

The Solution

TBWA\HAKUHODO broke through advertising censorship by replacing guns with mackerel–the protagonist’s favorite food. The unexpected swap caught the interest of both fans and the public unfamiliar with the series. 

They assembled a rough and low-quality collage, with the visuals deliberately creating a contrast to the typically intense manga graphics. By setting the bar for quality so low, the campaign felt accessible and encouraged others to share their own creations too.

Finally, the campaign featured a large, self-aware disclaimer: “We had to replace guns with mackerel due to ad regulations,” and the ads were posted all over the city of Osaka for people to see.

The Results

People reached
Copies sold

The Fable’s first ad campaign was a huge success. The campaign drew unprecedented public attention, capturing the interest of people unfamiliar with the series, while fans of the series appreciated the uncanny stunt. The ads became so famous that official merchandise was made by popular demand. And it earned official meme status as people began generating mackerel content using other popular manga series such as One Piece and Attack on Titan.