Enjoy our fast food! Look sexy in our cosmetics! Feel powerful behind the wheel of our car! Have fun drinking our beer with your friends!
These are the messages that TV ads usually convey. Now is not the time for them in Japan. Juxtaposed with endless news footage of tragedy and destruction from the tsunami zone, conventional advertisements would defeat their own purpose by making the sponsors look grossly insensitive.
As a result, ads have been almost completely absent from television in the Tokyo area this week. But many TV programs are designed with gaps for ads, and those gaps have to be filled with something. Hence, a handful of pre-existing public service ads have been run over and over in the ad slots. It hasn’t been unusual in the past few days to see the same one repeated two or three times in a single commercial break.
Most common, at least in my intermittent viewing, is the one in the video at the top of this blog entry. I’ve seen it so often that I almost have it memorized now. It’s a morally instructive story whose simple message is presented in such clear visual terms that you really don’t need to understand Japanese to get the point. But here is my approximate translation of it anyway:
Visual: A boy sits on a train and doesn’t move as a pregnant woman walks by looking for a seat.
Narration: “Although no one can see your heart…”
Someone else offers the woman a seat.
“…they can see what your heart makes happen.”
The boy walks up an outdoor staircase, passing an elderly woman making slow progress with a cane.
“Although they can’t see your thoughts…”
He goes back to help the lady along.
“…everyone can see the thoughts you act on.”
I’ve seen this ad dozens if not hundreds of times in the past few days, and its message that we all need to help each other is certainly timely now.
Another frequently shown public service ad is the one in the video below, which encourages recycling.
Here’s another recently repeated ad, illustrating in very literal terms the idea that reading books and newspapers gives you a wider view of the world.
And finally, here’s one reminding us that all living things are connected, and that many of them are disappearing.
These public service ads were produced by AC Japan (Advertising Council Japan), which used to go by the tongue-twisting but ear-catching name of Kokyo Kokoku Kiko. Read more about them here.