This list is not intended to be a definitive guide to the best or most effective work to come out of Japan over the past year. It is a ranking of the items we most liked from the work we have covered. These items are selected for a range of reasons, but originality, relevance to brand and audience and the overall engagement/entertainment factor were all important considerations.
The work that moved us the most was not for a major brand at all, but for the Green Ribbon Campaign, a charitable initiative to support organ donation. Dentsu’s initiative, which encouraged people to put forward soft toys in need of ‘transplants’—a new leg, say—and toys that can serve as ‘donors’, was a beautifully simple answer to a complex problem: how to encourage open discussion around a topic that many are uncomfortable with.
Beams’ 40th anniversary celebration film was in our view an outstanding way to inspire and entertain while showing the important role a brand can play in popular culture. This is the sort of thing we like to see when brands talk about creating ‘content’ rather than advertising.
Car companies don’t just have to talk about themselves, or cars for that matter. This campaign to promote Nissan’s Caravan, a van commonly used by people involved in manual labour, stood out because it showed understanding and appreciation for its audience. We also liked that rather than just being a one-off piece of content, it encouraged the audience to continue to come forward and tell their stories.
This was a neat campaign that went far beyond the regular ‘test ride’ for a motorcycle. Faced with the challenge of winning over younger bikers, Harley-Davidson gave people the chance to experience its machines for a full weekend. It also helped them plan their road trips, the footage of which was subsequently used to create original content. Appealing to the ‘rebel’ in the young salaryman was a nice positioning that made the brand current while ensuring it stayed true to its roots.
Over the years, Nissin has done an outstanding job of making something as basic as instant noodles seem fun and exciting. This work to celebrate the 58th anniversary of Chikin Ramen served as a turbo-charged anthology of the recent memes in Japanese advertising, while reminding us that the most important things outlive trends. Most importantly, it was entertaining.