Coin-op drinks machines vend free with ads

Japanese vending machines will dispense for free while displaying onscreen advertising.

If you thought commercialism of all sorts and advertising in general were pervasive in the West, then you've probably never been to Japan, where inducements to buy have been elevated to an art form. Given that background, it was only a matter of time before even the nation's food and drink became vehicles for venerating the sacred coin, as seen in the latest vending machines there.

Drinks vendor Apex recently realised that the 35,000 vending machines it operates in offices, stations and various public places across Japan could be used to push products other than vile-tasting hot liquids and so has instituted the MediCafe machine, featuring on-screen advertising.

Killing time with ads

The new auto-vendor will appear in June, has a central LCD screen that is either 19 or 10.4 inches across and which displays ads of either 15 or 30 seconds' duration. Naturally, the concept relies upon bored folk staring at the ads while waiting for their drink to vend.

Their reward? A free drink, representing a saving each time of around ¥80 (33 pence). The other side of the equation for Apex and partnered advertising agency WillB is likely to be a tasty ¥400 million (£1.7 million) in the first year of operation.

Should potential advertisers fear that people will just look at something else while waiting (or perhaps even talk to a colleague), they can rest safe in the knowledge that all cups dispensed will also feature whatever they see fit to print on them.

J Mark Lytle was an International Editor for TechRadar, based out of Tokyo, who now works as a Script Editor, Consultant at NHK, the Japan Broadcasting Corporation. Writer, multi-platform journalist, all-round editorial and PR consultant with many years' experience as a professional writer, their bylines include CNN, Snap Media and IDG.