Japanese advertising methods

Japanese advertising methods

After you've determined your sales channel, and your price, you need to determine how to advertise your product.

Misconceptions about advertising, like misconceptions about coupons, seem to abound. Traditional wisdom says that Japanese ads are softer and appeal to the emotions rather than to the intellect like crass Western ads. Japanese consumers, the reasoning goes, just don't like comparative ads.

This may be so, but there are other reasons for the lack of comparative ads in Japan. Until 1987 comparative ads were unofficially banned.

But even after the Japanese government lifted this de facto ban, there wasn't a rush by ad agencies to crank out harsh, comparative ads. This is because of the close-knit nature of the Japanese business and advertising communities.

In Japan it is not uncommon for the same advertising agency to handle the accounts of competing companies. Companies will also split their advertising between two rival agencies, and neither agency will have the certainty of a long-term contract. Under such an arrangement, it's no wonder that comparative ads are uncommon.

This is changing, but the changes are occurring on the fringes where foreign products are involved.

For example Pepsi and Coke became embroiled in a dispute when a Pepsi ad showed Coke products in a disparaging light. Coke sued on trademark grounds, and Pepsi had to tone down the ad.

Next General Motors came out with an ad that compared its new Cadillac with a Nissan Infiniti. This would be a non-event in America, but it raised eyebrows in Japan.

Also in a watershed advertisement, Japan's largest personal computer maker, NEC, came out with a comparative ad. NEC is beginning to lose its stranglehold on the PC market to upstarts like Dell and Compaq. To stem the tide, NEC recently ran an ad that showed how its PC with "Japanese roots" did a much better job of processing Japanese characters than a "foreign" computer.

This is only a beginning, but it seems that the combined effects of the opening of the Japanese market and the economic recession in Japan will force more companies to scramble for sales through comparative ads.