In what has become a tale of the 1 million yen ($9,176) tweets, the Kyoto city government paid a talent agency to have a comedy duo promote an art festival and other measures on Twitter.

One problem: the posts did not say that the city was the advertiser.

The promotional tweets were part of a contract that Kyoto city signed with Yoshimoto Kogyo Co. in September 2018 for 4.2 million yen to advertise the Kyoto International Film and Art Festival, held Oct. 17-20, and other projects, according to the city government.

The deal provided the city with a support team including comedy duo Miki, managed by the major talent agency, for promotional purposes related to the city's public relations magazines and events, among others.

The agreement stipulated that the city would pay 1 million yen for two tweets by Miki.

The members, brothers who hail from the ancient capital, tweeted two times each about the city in October 2018, with one saying: "This is the traditional scenery in Kyoto that I like!! Anyone who loves Kyoto can cheer on the city! Click here for more information!"

While hashtags mentioning the city were included, the tweets themselves did not state that they were advertisements, a method known as "stealth marketing," which hides the fact that the content is part of an advertisement.

Hiroyuki Fujishiro, an associate professor of Hosei University specializing in social media and familiar with Internet advertising, said the tweets were clearly stealth marketing.

While he noted that there are no legal restrictions against such tactics, he said, “Specifying whether the posts are by word of mouth or by advertisement are common practices on social media.

"Considering it from a consumer standpoint, (the tweets) should have clearly stated that they were ads, as payment was involved, regardless of how much," he added.

In response to the concerns, a Kyoto city government official said: “We signed the contract to reach out to young people who don't always read the city's promotional magazines.

"As hashtags (in the tweets) indicate that it is a city project, we don't see it as stealth marketing. We believe the contract amount was also valid," the official added.

A Yoshimoto Kogyo spokesperson said: “We don't recognize at all (that this is stealth marketing). Hashtags were attached because they are announcements.”

The spokesperson did not see why so much has been made of the matter, saying: "I think our company has done this before many times. This is not a unique instance that should make the headlines."

(This article was written by Satoko Onuki and Erina Doi.)