These TV commercials from Japan reveal a deeper need than even these women themselves knew.
don’t ever having trouble finding funny videos online. When I left my job at The Village Church a couple of years ago I remember many people saying, “But how am I going to get my funny video fix?” While Japanese culture and language study have taken the place of a lot of my recreational video watching, I still find YouTube browsing to be a helpful thing, and lately when sharing the truth of Christ with the Japanese. I’d like to invite you into a little bit of my recent conversations I’ve had with some people thanks to some YouTube videos.
I’ve never been a student of advertising. I think the only class I had in marketing was a very basic level elective in college. So, I don’t claim to be an expert in advertising–but I’ve noticed something about it since living in a different culture. Advertising caters to the sensibilities, namely the wants, of the intended audience.
Japanese mothers can go years upon years without hearing their first names from a family member.
The most effective forms of advertising tug at the hearts of people by creatively telling a story or depicting scenarios that speak to the often unspoken wants of a culture. For example, in the U.S. Dove struck a chord with this commercial
, now viewed over 65 million times. Why have so many people watched it? What cultural values does it recognize? What basic human need does it speak to?
Japan has a couple of the same commercials that I’ve shown to some people recently. (Side note–these commercials are in Japanese. You should be able to watch with subtitles in the YouTube App on your phone or on the web)
The first is a commercial called, “Call Her by Her Name” by Japanese cosmetic company Pola. The video shows candid shots of women who are called by their names for the first time in years instead of the normal お母さん (okaa san, mother) which most parents switch to after they have kids. Japanese mothers can go years upon years without hearing their first names from a family member. Take a look at how these women react to being called by their name in the video below.
In a culture where wants and needs are often repressed rather than spoken, this video speaks to those who desire to hear their name.
Recently I had a conversation with a woman who was crying as I showed her this video. “Why do you think this makes you cry?” I asked. “I have no idea,” she replied, “It’s beautiful.” From there we talked about Psalm 119 and how God has knit us together intricately and beautifully for the purpose of relationship with him through faith in Christ. We were created for a purpose. Our heavenly father knows our name and hearing it is significant. We all have worth.
The second commercial is by Panasonic. In this video loved ones tell their family members, “I love you.” after telling them profound, nice truths about the other person. A daughter to her mother saying, “I feel happy just knowing that when I come home and say, ‘I’m home’ you’re always there to say, 'Welcome back.’” In a culture where things often go unsaid, Panasonic highlights what can happen when we tell each other the truth.
Now, both of these videos offer solutions that fall short–they’re just a lot more direct about telling you it in the video in the Japanese culture. Dove knows the American culture so they don’t have to tell you outright, “Dove products help you realize the beauty by which everyone else notices you.” These affect us emotionally because we were created for a purpose. Paying attention to advertisements has helped me to better understand the culture I am in and to speak to the people I’ve come to love and care about in a way that points to Christ.
The truth of the matter is we’re in a country where the church has often gone unnoticed, and is shrinking. We’re in a place that constantly needs your prayers.
Would you pray for Japan? Would you pray for the Christians in Japan to, by God’s power and grace, boldly and lovingly share the truth of Christ with those around them?
What are the commercials where you live telling the culture more loudly than you may be? Enter into that emotion with your neighbor and point them to the only one who can satisfy.