"The same ad messages were repeated too many times. They were never designed to be shown that way, and there was no real connection between their message and the post-disaster situation."
Yukichi Amano, a columnist for Kokoku Hihyo, a trade publication that covers the advertising industry, is obviously unhappy with blizzard of public service messages aired on TV after the March 11 disaster in Tohoku, and lets fly in Shukan Gendai (May 7-14).
"It's hard enough as it is to convey the right message through those kind of ads," Amano continues. "Viewers are just as likely to feel, 'I don't want to have to listen to this kind of sermonizing!'"
The TV networks suspended the airing of all regular TV commercials and substituted messages produced by the Advertising Council, formerly known as the Public Advertising Organization.
Not that many ads were initially available, so people tuned into the commercial channels to watch news of the disaster were shown hundreds, if not thousands, of repetitions of mother and daughter actress combo Akiko and Hitomi Nishina appealing to young women to get a cervical cancer examination, or a silly animated film titled "Aisatsu no Maho" (the secret magical method of greetings), or, in an ad produced for local consumption in Kansai, former Hanshin Tiger player Norihiro Akaboshi exhorting people to adopt a spirit of volunteerism.
So aggravated did the huddled masses become that the phones in AC Japan's office were ringing off the hook from March 14, the Monday morning following the earthquake.
"For the two weeks after March 24, our three lines in the office rang constantly," AC Japan's spokesperson Toshiaki Ogata tells Shukan Gendai. "We don't have staff whose job is to only to answer calls, so we have no idea how many calls were received."
Among the irate callers were fans of the Tigers' Akaboshi, who felt the overuse of their hero at the time of tragedy made him look bad.
AC took prompt action to create more suitable ads, recruiting such popular hunks as SMAP and Tortoise Matsumoto, who appeared in a "We believe Japan has the power," and other spots featuring pro wrestler Antonio Inoki and TV personality Kyoko Uchida.
Unfortunately, the new spots were shown ad nauseum as well.
Yoshiaki Hashimoto, an authority on the psychology of the mass media at the University of Tokyo, puts it like this: "We have found from studies that persuasive public messages work best if viewed up to three times. After five times, their effectiveness diminishes. Anything that touches on morality in particular is likely to create a negative impression by viewers, who may react by thinking, 'I don't want anyone to impose on my freedom.'"
According to the CM Databank, the five commercial networks normally broadcast 4,000 commercial messages per day. During the week of March 15 to 22, about 80% of all commercials aired were from AC, i.e., the same commercials were aired over 3,000 times.
"Even when nationally popular idols like SMAP issue a message exhorting the country to gird its loins, people will respond coldly," points out columnist Takashi Odajima. "And when Antonio Inoki advises people not to circulate false information, people ask themselves, "Why the hell is a pro wrestler remonstrating me about circulating lies?"
At least AC's messages cost less to produce than ordinary TV commercials. The organization's spokesperson tells the magazine they run about 20 million yen, but that includes promotional posters and national distribution. They are also aired on radio and shown in cinema theaters. Similar coverage would cost a corporate sponsor some 80 billion yen.
But if the messages only serve to annoy their intended viewers, the article concludes, they will merely have been wasted.© Japan Today