Advertising Credibility in Japan

In most capitalistic countries people accept that marketing and communication managers are hired to present a compelling case for a product or service. The communication presented is therefore inherently viewed with a very high-level of cynicism. The marketing professionals that craft this communication come under great degree of scrutiny.

Because the ethics of most of these professionals is generally under attack, today’s clients often view the contribution of these professionals as less valuable than ever before

In addition to this high level of skepticism the media in Japan where I work is very strict about over-claiming in advertising. In Japan no comparative or superlative adjectives can be used. So in Japan no detergent washes whiter, all detergents wash white.

The media are also very cautious about what they consider unfair competitiveness: that is saying or implying anything disparaging about a competitor. The Japanese tend to believe this kind of communication is disrespectful and should be avoided…advertisers steer clear of this anyway convinced that it offends viewer sensibilities.

I think that the most fundamental difference in Japanese advertising is the intent of the communication. Let me illustrate that by showing what I believe is the logic of Western advertising-

Tell them why you are different
Tell them why you are the best
Then they will want to buy

Then they will become hooked on you because they can justify their purchase. In Japan the “logic” of the approach would be quite different…perhaps…Make friends with them

Prove you understand their feelings
Show that you are nice
Then they will want to buy
Then they will find out what’s good about you

This famous eye wear TVC is a great example…it says nothing about Yanno but the TVC certainly shows that Yanno understands the consumer.

This Japanese approach to marketing adds even more credence to client’s claims that communication alone cannot contribute to the success of a product or service. More fundamental dynamics are at work.than strong communication when a product or service is launched successfully.

After carefully analyzing market research to identify the market opportunities a company may have to develop a product, specific to the market with packaging, distribution, and price strategies appropriate to the market. All these tasks are often already completed before an advertising professional takes part in the process. Although the advertising professional can make suggestions for changes to these tasks we often lack credibility in these areas.