Last time I spoke about one of my favorite companies we visited in Korea, so it is only fair that I now discuss one of my favorite Japanese companies: Dentsu. This company, a powerhouse in Japan and one of the largest ad agencies in the world, really rolled out the red carpet for us. We got a tour of the building (with a stunning view of the bay), a presentation on pop sensation AKB48, and best of all, a presentation on TV advertising that directly ties in with the Consumer Behavior course I am taking this term at Sloan.
This presentation was one of my favorites of the whole tour, in which a highly respected Dentsu exec led us on a tour of advertising tactics from basic TV spots to more modern tie-ins with YouTube. My three favorites were:
Surprise and humor: The commercial opens on a couple sitting down to a fancy dinner. The woman checks her watch, realizes she is late for something, gets up and starts running away, leaving the man at the table. The camera flashes to a different man standing on a bridge, checking his watch and waiting for someone. We follow these two for a bit – the woman, still running, knocks over a jogger and pops up a second later having swapped her pumps for his sneakers. After a series of funny scenes, finally the woman approaches the bridge. The man is still checking his watch, looks up… and the woman blows past him, continuing her sprint as she crosses the bridge. Finally, we see her arrive home, turn on the TV, and sigh – she made it just in time for her favorite program! (The commercial was for that TV station.)
Tear-jerker: The first scene is a woman preparing lunch for her young son. She painstakingly cooks the eggs, meat, and veggies, and delicately arranges them in his bento box. The subtitle reads “good luck on your first day of school.” We then see a montage of the mother preparing a daily bento box, each one unique, and using them as one-way messages to her fairly unresponsive teenage son. When she sees him studying, the bento box translates to “I’m proud of you;” when she meets his girlfriend, the box says “love is beautiful.” The mother accepts an empty box each night as the son’s only response. Finally, after years of this, the son is graduating from high school – and leaves a note in his last empty box: “Thank you. Sorry I never said it before.” (Let me tell you, there were quite a few sniffles in the Sloan audience when we watched this one! The commercial was for the utility company Tokyo Gas.)
Use of YouTube: I saved the best for last! Lotte Fit’s Gum ran a TV campaign of very brief commercials featuring 2 people trying the gum. They then break out into a cute and goofy dance brought on by the tasty gum and catchy music. In each commercial, someone or something (e.g., a dog, a deer, or even a cactus) in the background joins in the dance. When our Dentsu rep told us that this had been the biggest campaign in Japan while it ran, we were confused… it’s a simple 15-second dance. What’s the big deal?
The big deal was that Fit’s also ran a contest - $10,000 and a year’s supply of gum to whomever could come up with the best fan version of the commercial. They received hundreds of submissions and millions of views on YouTube, becoming one of the most well-known TV campaigns in Asia. Wow.
Clearly, these commercials stuck with me as a couple of weeks have past since this presentation from Dentsu. Each is a lovely vignette of Japanese life – humor, family, surprise, and cuteness! But beyond that, they serve their purpose as memorable advertisements for Japanese products and services. Dentsu is doing great work, and I have to say that they’ve raised my bar for television commercials I see now that I’m back in the States!