A Creative’s Thoughts: Post-Great East Japan Earthquake

What I thought post-Great East Japan Earthquake on Mar 2011 was to go back to the starting point of how to make advertising. More than 18,000 people lost their lives, with many injured and missing.

I thought a lot about how Tokyo felt at the time, how it was to actually be at the disaster areas and how I could convey these thoughts through the variation of mediums.

It grew increasingly challenging when advertisements disappeared from TV screen (TV stations initiated a voluntary restraint on all commercial ads for a certain amount of time, as a sign of respect to everyone affected by the disasters). After the disaster, only tactful, unprovocative ads were allowed to be aired. This inadvertently impacted my industry and line of work – and I could not help but think if television would eventually become the most ineffectual advertising medium…

1. A TV ad cheering up Japan, POST 3.11

One of the main reasons that I was nominated for the “Creative of the Year” award in Japan is due to a TV ad for Febreze, one of the main brands I am in charge of. Based on the “I wish I could wash” campaign that has increased business in a mature market in Japan, the “Harmony” campaign was centered on a family plot. We casted a former professional tennis player Shuzo Matsuoka as the father. Although he is not an actor, he was truly passionate and delivered our message with such rigor – through his lines, he had cheered the nation which had lost its spirit after the disaster. (“Don’t say just discard it” (smelly sofa, and hope…), “Don’t give up!” (removing odors, recovery)).

View the campaign below:

2. A radio campaign that disrupts imagination POST 3.11

There was a sharp increase of reliance on mass media after the disaster; people started downloading disaster prevention applications including earthquake warning and they started listening to the radio, even on their mobile phones. A radio ad that was created during this time has swept metals in local award shows. For a long time, Febreze for cars was suffering from a lack of recognition. But as a result of the explosive buzz that this ad created on SNS, sales has doubled and it became the No.1 brand in the market.

The campaign is based on a parody for a premium luxury car ad. Luxury car ads are known for their conventional format of utilizing powerful background music with a narrator boastfully talking in the background. We started the ads with the same concept in order to make people imagine that this was an advertisement for a car, when suddenly, the listeners heard a child’s innocent voice cutting in exclaiming, “but it stinks”, “but it smells kind of weird”. The radio campaign not only raised awareness of the brand, but it also gained immediate attention on social media.

Radio Ad “Coupe”:

Radio Ad “Sedan”:

I’ve highlighted some creative examples above. As I reflect, I do not think I would have made these ads before the disasters. I feel that this is what we as creatives can do as advertising producers. It is not about producing an artwork that will be evaluated 100 years later but things that would reach people’s hearts and souls today or tomorrow. It is important to visualize a vision for 5 years later, but as I create ideas, I feel what’s more important is to face the present.

“It is not the strongest or the most intelligent who will survive but those who can best manage change.”…Charles Darwin

Masanori TAGAYA2012

By Masanori Tagaya
Creative Director
Grey Group Japan
He was most recently awarded “Medalist” for “Creator of the Year” 2012: read about it here.



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