All About Japan

Top 4 Globally Famous Japanese Advertisements

Japanese Commercials

Japan is one of the top countries spending the most on advertising, with countless ads rolling out every day. As you can imagine, it's also one of the most competitive markets, as Japanese advertisers strive to be very creative. This culture has created several globally viral ads, and here are some of our hot picks.

4. Doraemon Series — Toyota

A typical car ad would likely feature an excited motorist driving on a highway, ending with an uplifting slogan. But six years ago, Toyota put some creativity into its ads and completely revolutionized how their cars are being advertised—showing the joy of driving with a series of "real life Doraemon" stories. Doraemon is widely known in Asia, as Japan was successful in exporting kids anime to neighboring countries. Brimming with famous actors and actresses playing the familiar characters (starring French actor Jean Reno as Doraemon, Satoshi Tsumabuki as Nobita, Asami Mitsukawa as Shizuka and Atsuko Maeda as Jaiko), the release of the Toyota Doraemon series attracted many viewers and media reports across the continent.

3. Gakuwatteru — Softbank

Nowadays we see fewer non-Japanese stars being featured in Japanese ads, but in 2017 Softbank made a strategic and successful move to feature Justin Bieber (with a cameo from 2016's viral hitmaker Piko Taro). Featured in a series of short films set in a high school (advertising discount phone plans for students), Justin, posing as a student, sings his song “What Do You Mean?” in the ads. These ads attracted wide media coverage globally and were part of the young talent's global rebranding efforts.

2. Otosan — Softbank

Japan is big on kawaii (cute) culture and many corporations invest a significant amount of money into kyara (mascot characters) for their brand. Among all kyara, the speaking Shiba Inu of Softbank is probably the most famous internationally. Called Otosan, which means “daddy” in Japanese, he's the head of the fictional White Family, always telling the others what to do in the ads. Because Otosan is so cute and perfectly demonstrates Japanese kawaii culture, Softbank’s ads are frequently being studied and analyzed globally for those hoping to break into the Japanese market. In the ad above, Otosan is feeling like he is in the "halftime" of his life, so he reflects on some of his highlights and adventures over the years.

1. High School Girls? — Shiseido

This ad starts with a teacher opening a classroom door and a camera wandering slowly into a high school classroom full of lingering female students. Then suddenly the video plays in reverse revealing a huge surprise (we won't spoil it here, so please watch). This ad went viral internationally right after its release and was recognized for its story, cinematography and music, creatively tying the cosmetic brand Shiseido to the message "Everyone can be cute." This ad has once again shown the world the clever Japanese ability to convey deep messages via a very simple story.

And if you enjoyed it as much as we did, you need to catch the behind-the-scenes video.