A Good Advertisement Can Transcend Culture and Language
What kind of advertisement can be regarded as a good one? What are the most important elements in creating a successful advertisement? What differentiate a good and a bad advertisement? These questions may have complicated answers in nowadays world, when the media has so many forms and the advertisements are published every day everywhere. However, it may be easy for an amateur to answer. As a non-professional in media industry, one of the audiences, an ordinary person, I find life is flooded with advertisements from the moment of waking up in the morning till going to bed at night. Modern life is busy. Compared to the past century, people in today’s modernized world are attracted to many things. So the essential standard to judge a good advertisement is whether it can attract audiences’ attention. An impressive start is a half success. But people get bored easily. So it is also difficult to make sure the audiences will watch the advertisement till the end. With above selection standards, I searched for the advertisement in the internet. I don’t have any pre-set idea of choosing any certain subject. I sat comfortably in front of my computer and randomly clicked any video advertisement that attracted me. I stopped watching immediately when I felt boredom. Then I clicked the other one, until I got this one. This is a Japanese advertisement. I don’t know any Japanese but luckily there is translation of Chinese showed at the bottom of the screen. The product it promotes is a brand of sushi, which, I don’t eat much, as sushi is not the main food in my country. Nevertheless, the language barrier and the product itself do not prevent me from claiming it to be a successful commercial advertisement. A successful advertisement can transcend cultural and language differences.
The audiences won’t ever think it as a commercial advertisement, or maybe one knows it is a commercial advertisement but will soon forgets the fact and begins to enjoy the plot in the video. The whole advertisement structure is simple. It displays several embarrassing or unhappy experiences of celebrating birthdays in restaurants in the form of their memories. The pictures are presented in the old feeling. It is white and black. The speed is slow so audiences have enough time to see the details of every plot and the facial expressions of people in the video. The background music is kind of out-dated Jazz, so audiences are immediately dragged back to years ago of their own memories. The first plot is the memory of a young woman having her birthday in restaurant with her parents. When the girl happily is holding the flowers as gift from her mother, the big bunch of flower of the next table makes a contrast to the small bunch of flower. The narrator says: “Coincidently the girl on the table next to me is also having birthday today.” The next scenes are the embarrassment of the narrator’s mother and herself, which is not openly expressed on that circumstances but can be found on their faces. However, this is not the climax. The girl does not expect to have another present so when mother gives her the necklace, she is really excited. However, the family of the table next to them seems to be much richer, as that mother presents a necklace which appears to be more shining and more expensive. The narrator says: “On my 17th birthday, the word ‘class differences’ carves in my mind.” “Class differences” is a literal translation of the Chinese, because there is no such word in Chinese. But we can understand the meaning is the wide gap between difference social classes, usually it refers to the gap between the very rich and the ordinary people. After watching this story, I don’t know what product it is about because the story does not promote anything. However, the funny story and
my curiosity make me watch more. Without a stop, the second story comes. The same background music and old-feeling white and black pictures continue. This time the narrator is a boy, who seems to come from a rich family as her parents arranges several waiter and waitresses to present him a birthday surprise. On the contrary, the boy does not seem to be happy with the arrangements, he says: “The birthday in restaurant is terrible and embarrassing. Don’t deliberately make such a kind of atmosphere.” He feels uneasy when others are looking at him. When seeing this, I thought maybe it is an advertisement to tell people that because people are different, one man’s meat may be another man’s poison. However, the next scene makes me give up this idea. The waitress blushes out the candles unexpectedly and makes everybody embarrassed. The third story is in the eyes of a mother who celebrates her son’s birthday in restaurant. The embarrassment of a mother is depicted vividly when her son is staring at the sexy waitress and even forgets to hold his fork. The close-up picture of the son and the mother’s painful expression as she is attacked by the fork make a funny contrast. “Unhappy birthday” is not only for the person having the birthday, but also for the person who sees the whole process. Finally the riddle of the advertisement appears. “Because celebrating birthdays in restaurants will bring such unhappy experiences, it is better to celebrate birthdays at home, so buy the Yinzhipan Sushi.” The brand and logo just appears for several seconds and another story turns up. This time the narrator is a man who intended to make his girlfriend drunk so that he can bring her home. But the result turns out to be surprising. Although it is a bit exaggerating to see the man’s hair was burned out by the blush of candle, the funny look on the man is indeed impressive. The following story is about how a silly grandpa ruined his grandson’s birthday by bringing a paper doll to the table. Although without much cultural background, we can guess from the narrator’s remarks and the pictures of some ghosts around the table that the paper doll should be used in funerals. The last story is more exaggerating. It is about a hotheaded mom who wants to celebrate her daughter’s birthday but is lit up by the music in the restaurant and forgets to behave herself. At last the emphasis of “unhappy birthdays” in restaurants and “happy birthdays” at home is brought up. The brand of take-away sushi is promoted.
The target of the commercial advertisement can be all kinds of people. Every person has a birthday to celebrate, and everybody is from a family or at least has friends to celebrate birthdays together. Regardless of the age or gender of the audience, the roles in ordinary life can all be found in the stories shown in the video. The design of the advertisement is based on a logo persuasion: because celebrating birthdays in restaurants is always awkward and embarrassing, people should celebrate birthdays at home, and order the sushi of this brand. The deduction seems to be untenable because if people do not eat in restaurants, they can cook at home. However, if we think further, these groups of individuals are not the target customers because they are not willing to pay extra money for food even for birthdays. So the target customers are those who would like to spend extra money to celebrate birthdays in restaurants. In the eyes of these clients, once the restaurant is not the choice, it is very likely they will try this product. The logo part seems to be untenable but is actually simple and efficient. The stories in the video use pathos as rhetorical devices to gain attractions and the same feelings in audiences. Every person has the memory of celebrating birthdays with family and friends. A mother is grown up from a girl. A man is grown up from a boy. Celebrating birthdays is a thing which people always have different expectations. For anything which people have different expectations, there will definitely be a certain percentage of disappointing results. For the tens of thousands of people who watch this video, there must be some girls, mothers, boys, and adults who have similar experiences as shown in the advertisement. The embarrassing experiences would be part of the memories of the audiences and could arouse resonances in feelings when they see the scenes. The stories told in the remarks of the first person “I” are more convincing than from the mouths of the other persons. To a certain extent, it is an application of the rhetorical device of ethos. The brand of the product is not displayed until three stories are told. It attracts audiences to keep watching it because people are curious to know what product it is advertising It is like a riddle for viewers to guess. So this advertisement is successful in presenting the funny experiences and attracting viewers to imagine the product.
Nevertheless, after watching the video for several times, it is inevitable to find out several fallacies or logical mistakes in the stories. In the first story, it seems two families are economically on different levels as seen from the size and value of the presents no matter as flowers or a necklace, but how can these two families have dinner in the same restaurant? If the table next to the girl’s family is so rich, they should have been into a much more expensive restaurant. It is easy to see that the differences of economic status between two families are exaggerated. Regarding the story which the grandpa brings a paper doll as present to his grandson’s birthday, how could an old man do not know the meaning of such paper dolls in cultural and traditional background? Aren’t old people more sensitive to traditional culture and taboos? With a second thought, audiences could know this is purely a make-up story and will never occur in real life. In the last story, how could a mother to behave so ugly in front of her daughter, just because of the music in the restaurant, at such an important occasion? The possibility for such things to happen is doubtful. The stories are mostly exaggerating the truth and deliver a sense of humor to the audience. For people who haven’t had such embarrassing experiences, those stories may leave an impression on their minds so they may form the idea that unhappy birthday is due to having birthday dinner in the restaurant.
Regarding the literary and imagery techniques used in the advertisement, the part is the main part and language is only assisting to help audience understand the intention. Slow motions and close-up shots are adopted frequently in the video. The facial expressions of the characters play an essential role in influencing the audiences’ feelings. The narrators are not expressing their feelings during the experiences, but only introducing the circumstances. The feelings are displayed skillfully by the actors and actresses during the scenes. The director may take some time to find the correct actor with a combination of naïve and silliness. The frequent appearance of “unhappy birthday” is a summary of the stories and intention to link it with restaurants in the minds of audience. The language is not very important in this advertisement. That’s why it still attracts me even I don’t understand any Japanese. I don’t know if Japanese people have the tradition of eating sushi on birthdays, but the stereotypes of birthday cakes, candles, and presents already give me enough background information of the stories. It seems birthdays all over the world are associated with birthday cakes, candles and gifts.
A good advertisement can transcend language and culture. For this video advertisement, although its language is in Japanese, and the product is Japanese food, it also attracts me, a non-Japanese person to watch it until it ends. Unlike most other traditional food product commercials, this advertisement tells nothing about how tasty or delicious its product is. Instead, it focuses clearly on the targeted customers, creates impressive stories, and presented in a humorous way so people all like to watch it, and guess it, and remember it by the end of the video. It is hard to persuade audiences that a certain kind of food is much better than others. On the contrary, increasing the expectations will mostly result in disappointments. So this advertisement is only persuading people who go to restaurants to celebrate birthdays to change their minds and try ordering take-away sushi of this brand. Its purpose is simple. It makes people laugh. When people laugh, they feel relaxed and easy to be persuaded. Why not give it a try? It is a persuasive advertisement.