No matter how hard they have tried, many of Japan’s biggest electronics firms have been unable to get Americans to go gaga over gizmos used in karaoke bars. These are costly electronic gadgets that can make novice singers sound like candidates for the TV show “Star Search.”
In Japan, karaoke systems are especially popular with wealthy Japanese executives. Basically, they are microphones hooked up to fancy speakers which, in turn, are plugged into whiz-bang audio- or videocassettes.
When electronic companies tried to market a karaoke system for home use in the United States, however, American consumers mostly yawned. And a Los Angeles advertising agency thinks it knows what went wrong.
It seems that the Japanese electronics firms kept trying to sell the costly contraptions to wealthy executive types. But the ad firm says companies mostly ignored those who might buy them--trend-setting teens.
“The Japanese have assumed that the same person who uses the product in one country would use it in another,” said Renee Fraser, the new general manager of the Pacific division of the ad firm Bozell, Jacobs, Kenyon & Eckhardt. That, she says, is not the case.
By using a tad of psychology to help Pacific Rim companies answer complex marketing questions, Bozell Jacobs hopes to beat other Los Angeles ad shops to what it sees as many millions of dollars in new advertising business in the lush Pacific Rim market.
“It’s not just what we look like on the outside that matters but also what we look like on the inside,” said Fraser, who has a doctorate in psychology from USC. “There’s a need to better understand the heart and mind of the American consumer.”
By promoting a broader use of psychology--along with the usual demographic information--Bozell Jacobs is trying to garner much more business from clients in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan and Hong Kong. The agency has several Pacific Rim clients, including Kawasaki, the motorcycle maker; Clarion Corp., an electronics firm, and the Dodge Colt division of Chrysler Corp. A few months ago, it picked up the Japanese athletic shoemaker Asics Corp.
But the ad agency didn’t really expand its efforts until last year after doing a study with the Foreign Trade Assn. of Southern California. That study identified 460 Pacific Rim companies that Bozell Jacobs felt could strongly benefit from advertising exposure in America. Now the agency has a special task force on the Pacific Rim and is holding marketing seminars both here and in Asia.
Sure, Japan’s major automotive giants--like Toyota and Honda--have quickly learned how to market to Americans, but there are hundreds of smaller Pacific Rim companies--from cosmetics manufacturers to food makers, points out John Adams, president of Bozell Jacobs’ Pacific division. “The Japanese car makers were also pretty small when they first entered the U.S.”
Not everyone, however, is overly impressed with Bozell Jacobs’ latest efforts to attract Pacific Rim business. “The Pacific Rim opportunity for Los Angeles ad agencies has been a lot of hype without a lot of delivery for years,” said James K. Agnew, general manager of the West Coast division of the ad firm J. Walter Thompson. “When you get past the Japanese car makers and electronics companies, what you have left is a shoe company here and a noodle company there,” he said, “and most of those are really not big spenders.”
Chiat/Day Hopes to Score With Nissan Ads
The football wasn’t the only thing that was kicked off last night on ABC Monday Night Football. So was a crucial advertising campaign created by Chiat/Day, for its biggest client, Nissan.
At stake is the Venice ad agency’s bid to succeed in the big leagues of auto advertising after years of being better known for creativity than for size. In taking on the Nissan account, Chiat/Day nearly doubled in size, became the largest ad shop in Los Angeles and inherited a client with disappointing sales and a fuzzy image.
Chiat/Day has been at work on Nissan’s general image for a year, with ads that included the much criticized campaign featuring several engineers sitting around a table talking about “human engineering.” This fall, Chiat/Day has dumped the gabbing engineers and replaced them with new image advertising aimed at people who not only like cars--but who also like to drive.
But Chiat/Day not only has to sell image, it has to sell cars. Nissan has high hopes for its 1989 cars and is counting on Chiat/Day for some magic to help turn sales around. As a result, there will be more ads for individual models, all continuing to play off the slogan that the agency created a year ago: Built for the Human Race.
Three new spots for sporty Nissan 240-SX, for example, will compare driving it to riding a roller coaster, a bobsled and a space ship. And a series of documentary-like ads for the Nissan’s utility wagon, Pathfinder, will feature exploits of a California couple driving the vehicle from Chicago to Rio.
What’s more, people who own a Nissan Stanza may soon get a chance to get their mugs on TV. Chiat/Day recently contacted Stanza owners to get Polaroid-type pictures of them next to their cars. So far, 500 pictures have been received, and a number of them will be strung together in advertisements that feature happy Stanza owners.
But, promised Lee Clow, president of Chiat/Day, unlike the engineers in last year’s Nissan ads who were actually actors, “these pictures must be real people who own Stanzas.”
Spots Uses Sex Appeal to Get Teens to Vote
Sex has been used to sell all kinds of things--from perfume to automobiles. Now, however, a Los Angeles production company is using sex in a TV ad that attempts to sell teens on something that doesn’t come in a bottle or sit in a showroom: voting.
The commercial portrays two young girls talking about what appears to be sex. “I don’t think I’m ready,” says one girl. Responds the other: “You’re old enough . . . and it feels great.”
The two women are next seen striding past a sign that reads, “Vote Here.” The advertisement was created as a public service announcement by Yada/Levine, a 4-year-old production company. The commercial, scheduled to appear primarily on networks popular with young adults--including VH-1, MTV and Fox Network--is clearly an attempt to get 18- to 21-year-olds to vote. “We only had 30-seconds to sell people on voting,” explained Wayne M. Levine, who directed the ad. “We figured sex appeal is the best way to do it.”
Advertisers Tune Into Latino Hits on Radio
For years, radio stations have been counting down America’s top hits. That is, after all, how deejay Casey Kasem became a veritable household name.
Two years ago, however, a fledging Los Angeles Latino radio production company wondered why no one had done the same thing with top Latino hits.
So Spanish International Marketing decided to syndicate a weekly radio show and name it Billboards Latin Hits Countdown. Since that time, the show--which features a disc jockey who goes by the name “El Jefe” (The Chief)--has been picking up a number of big-name, national advertisers. Among them, AT&T;, McDonald’s and six motion picture companies, including Universal Pictures and Warner Bros.
So successful is the show, said Arthur Doty, president of the family-run company, that last month even Eastern Airlines began carrying a condensed version of it on all flights. “With more than 20 million Hispanics living in America,” Doty said, “it’s time more advertisers tried to reach them.”