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Japans Body-Shaming Ads

Pointing out physical "flaws" and "undesirable" traits are mainstays in Japanese marketing tactics. Companies relentlessly attack women's body image and still get a pass from the public. "Your fat body is disgusting."

Japan is famous for many reasons, including its creative advertisements. Youtube and social media sites are filled with English speakers reacting with delight and cultural confusion over the fast-paced in-your-face weirdness that the Japanese public has grown used to.

However, if an international audience was to look any deeper into Japanese advertisements, the reaction would be less delightful and more disgusted.

Japan's body-shaming ads are designed to make its audience feel ugly.

Body Shaming ads are particularly prevalent on Youtube and are aimed at all genders (though there are far more aimed at women). Often using animation or manga, they use a story format meant to body shame and prey on insecurities. They aren't subtle about the message or the proposed solution.

  • Is your husband having an affair? It's your fault because you're not attractive enough. You need to win him back by becoming beautiful (and using our product).

  • Can't get a boyfriend? It's because you're ugly. Use our product.

  • Your boyfriend dumped you because of your weight? Being fat is gross, you're gross and ugly, it's your fault. Use our product.

  • Are you being bullied for your appearance? Here's a friend to tell you that the bullies are right, and you need to change yourself (with the advertised product, of course).

  • Life not going well in general? It's because you're ugly. Use our product.

Where these ads may have crossed the line is if they are too explicit in shaming, rather than implicitly causing anxiety among those worried about the problem.

Says Roy Larke, a senior lecturer in marketing at the University of Waikoto in New Zealand who specializes in Japanese retailing and consumer behavior.

Values are being spread that don't allow people to think positively about their body or their appearance. While these kinds of ads may not affect adults, who have certain abilities to make their own judgments, those ideas may take root in children and young people, and they are harmful.

Tohko Tanaka, a professor of media culture at Otsuma Women's University and an expert in the depictions used in advertising and other media says,

[These advertisements send] an oversimplified message based on the heteronormative concepts of romance in which people are judged solely by their physical appeal to the opposite sex, and a norm that people feel they must follow, joining hands with an extreme marketing strategy that uses fear to make people buy things.
Japan Body Shaming Ad Fat Shame
It's not just body-shaming women: Youtube ad shows a woman ridiculing her partner's physical appearance and justifying her affair because of it.

Recently there has been a call from the Japanese public to discourage advertisers online from showing unrealistic images/scenarios and these obvert body-shaming tactics. However, many people are choosing to overlook these ads claiming that there's no difference in these ads from what society feels in regards to the importance of your appearance and weight.

With more people staying home due to COVID19 measures, there has been a rise in the use of Youtube meaning that more viewers (including children and young people) are being subjected to this body shaming on a regular basis.


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