Japan Pioneers 'Context-Linked' TV Commercials

02 October 2006

Haunted by the growth of ad-skipping digital technology, Japan's second largest ad agency Hakuhodo is partnering one of the nation's big four networks Yomiuri Telecasting to produce and broadcast "context linked" commercials.

The commercials identify closely with specific programs and content, even to featuring the same actors. They also carry important plot-lines excluded from the program itself - meaning that devotees of a soap or sitcom could miss vital story details if they skip the ads.

The Wall Street Journal cites a typical example of contextual advertising for Toyota Motor Company, linked to product placement within 37 Degrees, a program centering around the love lives of three young couples.

In one scene, a woman sits in a café longing for a family. Then she notices a mother taking her kids out of the back of a Toyota Sienta minivan . . . a scene that lingers sufficiently long for viewers to get a clear view of the vehicle's spacious interior. The woman imagines herself becoming the mother and enjoying the Sienta with the kids.

Cue a commercial, where the same character later goes home to research "happiness, marriage, minivan" on the internet, a search that leads her to Toyota's website.

The auto giant's reaction to the experiment was positive and it plans further such ads in the future. Despite its enthusiasm, however, there is concern that the idea might just backfire.

Says Jun Hirayama, an assistant manager in Toyota's advertising and marketing department: "There's still a fear that we'll leave viewers and potential customers feeling betrayed."

Data sourced from Wall Street Journal Online; additional content by WARC staff