Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Japanese TV commercials - But Why?

One of the surprising things for a new foreigner to Japan is the quality, or better put, the style, of Japanese TV commercials. Aside from a few that are genuinely witty (such as the Nissin Cup Noodles which are hysterical) most appear to follow one of two formats. Shouting about the product or presenting something cute about the product. The name is repeated multiple times and the whole event is over in 15 seconds. No comments please!

Then something interesting occurs. The commercial is then immediately repeated all over again. Unchanged and unrepentant, the product name is once again shouted from the screen. It took me many years to work out that these two issues, the lack of creativity and the repetition, are actually two sides of one coin.

In Japan it is the access to TV broadcasting, rather than the content of the commercial, that is the barrier to entry. To air a commercial it is necessary to go through one of the few dominant media resellers. Once you are past them, it doesn't matter so much the content as you are finally into the living room. As the shortest TVCM spot available is 15 seconds it's better to make a short commercial and show it twice if you are lucky enough to gain a 30 second slot than to go to the expense of making a new commercial or a 30 second version of the first. Market forces are funny old things in Japan.

This blog is designed to answer the questions a newcomer to Japan might have. If you have any, please feel free to make a note in the comments below. Thanks.

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