Tokyo Trip 2008 (Part 3): ADMT, a return to commercial art

AD Museum Tokyo

Second on my list was the AD Museum Tokyo which I had been looking forward to visit since I had discovered it online. It also reawakened my previous studies in Japanese advertisement and my appreciation and understanding of print ads. With the addition of a history of advertisement in Japan video and displays I felt the experience was enlightening.

The museum was located in a complex hard to explain with words. The directions to this museum were also complicated requiring a walk through giant under ground passageways. The museum itself had a very modern feel to it as if you were walking through tight hallways at an airport. The first display in the museum was modern newspaper and print ads. One of the conclusions I had made from Japanese and American advertising class was the importance of producing a good feeling or a ‘wow’ factor rather then comparing the product against a competitor. That conclusion I felt really showed itself in a lot of the print ads displayed in the museum. One of the ads was a series of seven different ads for several different companies all containing the gimmick of being cut out origami, providing entertainment as well as advertising a product. The ad while creative and inspiring also shows how the idea of service has a big role in advertising in Japan. The idea that if you give the customer the benefit of the doubt and treat them before or during an initial purchase they will feel appreciated and willing or even obligated to continue purchasing from said company. To better understand what I mean by service I’ll give you a few examples of what I experience on the daily. When going to the local bar I often receive a small dish before ordering as an added extra service. At the store when buying a drink sometimes they offer an attached toy or key chain, just for buying the product. Walking down a busy street you can often see people handing out free tissues. After leaving the local ramen shop I was handed a plastic fan for apparently no reason at all. With the exception of the first example these are all forms of advertisement. The tissues often come with leaflets for business or services, the toy has the brand name of the product it was attached to written all over it, and the fan, an advertisement for the ramen shop with the full menu on the back of it. These are all clever ways of providing service to the customer improving customer relations and creating new avenues for advertisement.

A brilliant ad for Nippon Express, a transport and logistics company follows along a similar sales pitch of providing a service. The kicker for the ad is huge museums and galleries are kind enough to lend masterpieces of art to Japan for displays. The ad then provides several famous pieces and sculptures on a black background with detailed explanations for each piece to educate the reader. It’s just crazy and heart warming enough to work. The company is showing they care about their customer’s intellectual well being and appreciate art. In addition their dedication to global communication and information of which their company is based upon. So far with the idea of service and the previous ads there has been a trend to dedication or loyalty to the customer that comes up in Japanese advertising and marketing, a new idea I hadn’t discovered in my advertising class last spring.

As the displays continue, the museum begins to focus on the history of advertisement starting with the Edo period. I was quite surprised when the displays were of ukiyo-e style prints and the museum referred to them as the “prehistory” of advertisement and mass media. I had known that ukiyo-e played a role in advertising but not to what extent with little to know information about it in my readings. There seems to be some confusion over the type of print that was used for advertising. The museum also refers to these prints as 錦絵, nishiki-e which seem to refer to ukiyo-e style prints that were made in the Edo period or created in the city of Edo. Some displayed referred to them as ukiyo-e while others did not leaving it a little confusing as to what is the difference. What’s very fascinating about the ads is the overtly subtle way of advertising the product. In the case of a store, one print has three beautiful women standing in front of a store with the sign for the store being the advertisement. For most of these pieces the art supersedes the ad. One example is ukiyo-e used to advertise kabuki plays. I actually got to see modern usage of this at the kabuki theater in Eastern Ginza.
probably not ukiyo-e but paintings done in the style in front of the kabuki theater in East-Ginza

Much like the movie posters of today these advertisements were eye catching with the focus on a particular scene or actor. I wonder with all of this subtly in ads (another example being several toothpaste ads I saw with no showing of teeth) at the beginning of Japan’s advertisement history and a focus on art selling a product has a connection with the way advertisement works in Japan today. I want to believe that is a factor but more research is needed.

Moving on there was a pop art display along one wall showing cultural items from the 1920’s to 1990’s. Along side this were print ads ranging the same time periods. The drastic change from wood block prints to paintings to graphic design elements by the late 50’s early 60’s coincides with the era. A fairly shocking piece was one done in 1944 during World War II entitled “Save petroleum, blood of arms”, that strikes an eerie resemblance to the Rosie the Riveter poster. It’s different in a lot of ways in that the woman on the picture does not have her sleeves rolled up nor is she smiling. The pose the working woman is in strikes me as docile, obedient, almost worried, with her shoulders hunched up to her ears. I don’t know if the purpose was to show the ideal woman or to show soldiers what they were fighting for. It is a very interesting war propaganda poster that has a lot to say about the time period and working women during the war.

The rest of the museum focuses on television ads and then back to recent print ads. The museum labels modern advertisement in Japan as focusing on recycling resources and protecting the environment. The appeal of these ads are humanitarian but also work hard to capture that “good feeling” while still others go for shock value. One shows the earth as being a bowl shaped pan with the words for the ad rising like steam. It was one of the more surprising ads because of its message and image style being more like that of Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, trying to be a little frightening. I thought it to be a little unrepresentative of all the modern ads out today but it is true that a good portion of ads seen on television are about energy efficient air conditioners and heating units. It was also nice to see advertisement displayed in an objective manner where as Internet sites focus mainly on the bizarre and crazy ads that come out of Japan. They’re interesting too and they prove the point that the ad designer was going for the feeling and “wow” factor.

From a historical standpoint, the way print ads convey a message better then they have in the entirety of Japan’s history. Even if sometimes that message is a little vague. I think by showing modern ad’s at the beginning and ending of the history of Japanese advertisement you can see the evolution of clarity in design and message in todays ads.


Emanuel said...

i never thought not killing things would be a marketing tool but leave it to the xxxxxxxxxxx to stick a "for sale" sign on anything

Monitor de LCD said...
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