I don’t know about you, but there are few things I love more than a good old-fashioned clash of cultures. And the culture I find myself most fascinated with/confused by is Japanese pop culture. I don’t really understand Hello Kitty or PokeMon, Anime cartoons confuse me and Japanese horror movies give me nightmares. (I’m not proud.) But what I love most is the appropriation of our western culture by the Japanese, often with hilarious results.
Take for example celebrity endorsements. In the age of instant access and unlimited information, most celebrities go to great lengths to protect their image. They hire consultants and spin-doctors. They train their bodies rigorously and diet religiously. But one image concession even the biggest stars in Hollywood are willing to make is the big money grab of overseas commercials. Stars who would never consider “selling out” by doing strange commercials where they look ridiculous, (at least by Western standards) have been throwing caution into the wind for years and selling everything from cosmetics and alcohol to fizzy drinks and yogurt. Most involve a celebrity standing around looking beautiful and holding/pointing to/eating/drinking the product. But my favorites are the ones that get lost in the translation. Like watching a pre-Food Network episode of Iron Chef (sub-titles, please, no voiceover) or a black and white Godzilla movie, I often don’t know what is going on, but I don’t really care. But with my all-time favorite Japanese celebrity shill, I think very little is lost in the translation, mostly because I can’t really understand this guy when he is speaking English. That’s just bad acting, in any language.
In advertising, pretty much everyone has been influenced by someone else. As we’ve been bringing you stories about ad legends like Bill Bernbach and George