Advertising With Anime in Japan — 4 Popular Campaigns

Tokyoesque
6 min readSep 15, 2023

By Kana Kono (29/06/2022)

Miley Cyrus holds a bottle of Gucci Flora while standing next to a Japanese anime version of herself in this piece of Japanese advertising.
Source: Tokyoesque

Japanese animation, or anime, is loved worldwide. With Ghibli films, and anime series such as Naruto, Attack on Titan and many others making international headlines, Japan is renowned for its animation industry. As anime increases in popularity worldwide, it continues to lead the way for Japan to export its culture to the world, and continues to bear a large presence in Japanese advertising.

As more and more people continue to watch and enjoy anime, many companies have realised the commercial opportunities that anime characters hold for them. With this revelation, there are increasing numbers of commercials featuring anime characters in Japan today. However, it is not only in Japanese advertising that we see anime-based commercials — foreign companies are beginning to catch on as well.

Last year, internationally renowned Italian fashion brand Gucci came out with an advertisement for its “Flora” perfume, starring an animated version of Miley Cyrus in a style similar to that of Japanese anime. Japanese animator Terumi Nishii (the chief animation director and character designer for ‘JoJo’s Bizarre Adventure: Diamond is Unbreakable’) designed this anime-version of Miley Cyrus, and it gained a lot of traction and admiration for its cuteness and novelty, proving a highly effective marketing strategy. Gucci has even collaborated with Doraemon — a popular Japanese children’s anime character — to feature on their products. Anime has clearly proven its place as an important marketing tool in Japanese advertising, and international companies are picking up on this.

What Makes Japanese Anime so Popular?

One striking aspect of the genre is its popularity among all age groups. While certain anime target children or younger generations, many ignore age thresholds, and are made for everyone. Perhaps this is what is unique about Japanese anime — many people in Japan and worldwide have grown up with Ghibli films, and continue to enjoy them well into adulthood.

Storyline plays a vital role in this. Many anime have sophisticated storylines that adults can easily enjoy. Even those targeted at children like Doraemon and Crayon-Shinchan carry heart-warming stories that everyone, regardless of age, can enjoy. Indeed, the depth and the complexity of their stories are vital to attracting more people. Their ability to transcend national borders and gain popularity worldwide could be attributed to this age-defying quality.

Japan Wasn’t Always Known for its Anime

Anime has a long history in Japan. While the industry has existed from the early 20th century, producing all sorts of products from films to educational materials; commercials to comics, the market was still originally small, with little influence on Japanese society. It was only when TVs first became more accessible in Japan in the 1950s that it started to grow — sparking a revolution in visual-form Japanese advertising. As the TV industry grew, so too did the anime industry.

Companies of course rushed to advertise their products in this new era of television, often choosing to produce and air animated commercials. One of the first of these was produced by Mitsubishi Electric, who aimed to advertise their new electric blender. You can see similar archived old examples of anime in Japanese advertising here.

As animated commercials gained popularity, many saw an opportunity to expand on this trend, and sought to create animated shows and series. In the 1960s, the iconic anime series Astro Boy was released and was a major hit, being still popular today. After its release many other iconic anime followed, and the genre really took off.

Interested in how Virtual Personalities are disrupting Japanese advertising? Click here.

4 Popular Japanese Anime Commercials

Coming from this popularity of anime across all generations, advertising their products while featuring anime became a great marketing strategy for many companies. Below, we have listed some of the most popular examples of anime-based Japanese advertising.

Kateikyoushi no Try!

Kateikyoushi no Try! is a Japanese private tutor company that often targets those about to undertake their high school or university entrance exams. While promoting academic achievement, Kateikyoushi no Try has gained attention through its commercials, even receiving many awards. They are one of the most popular commercials in Japan featuring characters from Heidi, Girl of the Alps. Their Heidi series in particular has maintained long-lasting popularity. You view their current and past commercials here.

Japanese company Kateikyoushi no Try! uses an anime character to market their services.
Source: Kateikyoushi no Try! Blog

Nissin Cup Noodle

Nissin Cup Noodle is known for its series of commercials featuring various animated characters. While many involve Japanese anime characters (as seen here), there are also exceptions. For example, when they featured Yoda from Star Wars. Can you spot the One Piece character references in the image below?

Nissin cup noodle features characters from anime in advertising their product.
Source: Moshi Moshi Nippon

Maarui Shiawase

Some commercials feature popular anime characters, and others create their own characters. Maarui Shiawase however, took their anime-based commercials to another level. While commercials aim to advertise their products or services, Marui took the opportunity and went ahead to create their original short series to advertise themselves. Although in Japanese, you can check out the four short stories here!

Two characters from Neko ga kureta Maarui Shiawase.
Source: 0101.co.jp

Curious how Japanese companies have also turned to vending machines to further their marketing? Click here.

Marukome

Marukome also created their original characters and wrote short stories to promote their product. Unlike Maarui Shiawase however, they are separate stories depicting different situations. The whole list of their commercials can be seen here. Despite only being 90 seconds long, Marukome’s commercials have put people in tears, making them feel at home and relate to the topic. Their heart-warming commercials are a must-see!

Japanese advertising for Marukome’s miso paste. An old man is holding a bottle of the paste, with the subtitles “My wife has trouble with her legs and I’m the only one who cooks now.” on screen.
Source: Mashable SE Asia

Want to learn about the use of manga in Japanese advertising? Click here.

Closing Notes

While many companies have featured anime characters or created their original series to promote their products and services, one thing seems clear. These methods make people talk about your company. There can be many reasons for this. They could be funny; touching; beautifully crafted; or simply feature internationally famous or beloved characters. Commercials collaborating with anime are already a big hit in Japan, and it may be that this success can be replicated internationally!

Japanese advertising uses anime extensively — but as Gucci has proved, this is not a strategy limited to the hands of Japanese companies. To see how you can grow your business in Japan, get in touch with us to arrange a free 30 minute consultation.

Interested in understanding how to create appeal among Japanese consumers with limited-time or seasonal offerings? Get in touch with us to discuss how your brand could boost visibility using a carefully considered marketing strategy.

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Tokyoesque

Japan-EU market entry and expansion consultancy driven by market research. Based in London and Amsterdam, we provide cultural insights with real impact in Japan