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Hi Blog. Readers VW and TO have just submitted the following ad campaign from P&G Japan (as in Procter & Gamble), with the following comment:
Dear Dr. Arudou, Thank you for your continued work raising awareness on issues of race here in Japan.
Have you seen this latest ad campaign for Bold detergent?
There’s also a mini, 20 second ad on YouTube that is being promoted right now when people load other, unrelated videos (which is how I ran across this). I hope it may be of interest to you or your readers.
Thank you. First, let’s embed the ad with stills:
Synopsis: In a 3 1/2-minute retelling of the Cinderella story, a flower-sniffing Prince Charming announces to his Queen mother that he wants to find a woman to be his bride (hanayome).
This announcement is sent throughout the land that there will be a royal ball (butoukai) to accomplish this, and a message arrives at Cinderella’s home, where she expresses a wish to go.
But her nasty stepsisters and stepmother saddle her with a heap of laundry (done in a modern Japanese-style washing machine) and go instead.
Fortunately, the Fairy Godmother comes by with Bold detergent in a gel form, which enables her not only to escape the drudgery and go to the ball, but also become perfumed, in a way that makes her nose grow longer and twitchy.
Cut to the evening gala, where all the women are trying to make their noses longer.
When Prince Charming asks why, she says that PC wanted a nose (hana) ball. No, says PC, he was referring to flowers (hana).
No matter, in walks Cinderella, and her fragrant clothes entrance the Prince and make their noses mutually longer and flappier.
They have their flappy nose dance until midnight, when suddenly she has to leave (no carriage, but a mama-chari bicycle). But she leaves behind a fragrant article of clothing which the Prince finds and flaps his nose at.
At the end of the ad, the Prince commands his kingdom to “Find Cinderella!!” And now the viewer is left with the question: “Is this a chance for you also to become Cinderella!?”
And an accented voiceover tells the viewer to go to P&G’s website for more (complete with exaggerated “Western” facial features, and a Cinderella with a flappy nose).
COMMENT: It’s a clever ad. Procter & Gamble Japan clearly spent a lot of money on it, with elaborate costumes and many extras, all very milk-white and European, and most quite well trained (especially the Queen) in speaking phonetic Japanese without obnoxious katakana subtitles (Cinderella herself speaks without accent, although the transitional voice-overs have a Japanese native narrator speaking in a foreignized accent). And the reason I say it’s clever is because it’s making clever puns with flower/nose and retelling the old tale quite afresh (the product itself is very much subsumed to the plot-line).
But it’s still a racialized telling of the tale, what with those damned elongated and flappy noses. Debito.org has brought up other examples of racialized marketing in Japan (see archive at https://www.debito.org/?p=12077), particularly in terms of nose imagery, and how obnoxious it can get:
After ANA airlines got pretty badly stung for its “change the image of Japan” (into a long-nosed Caucasian Robert Redford lookalike) ad earlier this year, Toshiba got slapped for their racialized bread maker ad (see here), and McDonald’s Japan faced enough pressure that they terminated their “Mr. James” burger campaign early, one wonders whether Japan’s advertisers will ever learn their lesson that grounding their product in racialized stereotypes is pretty bad form.
Imagine if you will some overseas company marketing an “Asian” product that was so delicious, it made your incisors go all “Asian buck teeth” reaching out to eat it? No doubt Japan’s patrol of internet PC police would soon start howling racism and lobbying the company (and Japan’s missions abroad) to send out protests and orders to withdraw the ad campaign. People making fun of Asian “slanted eyes” has been criticized before, and withdrawn with apologies.
So what about this? What do Debito.org Readers think? Do you think Procter & Gamble HQ in the US would approve of this?
Dr. ARUDOU, Debito