Hollywood Celebrities in Japanese TV Commercials

by Donna David

Celebrity Miranda Kerr in a Japanese TV commercialIt is a fact universally acknowledged that a Hollywood celebrity who wants to make easy money must consider appearing in a TV commercial aired only in Japan. While no exact figures are available, it is said that a top actor or actress can command millions of dollars per ad. The caveat is, they have to do everything that the Japanese client wants, even if it’s bordering on the ridiculous. A quick Youtube search would unearth such classics like Sylvester Stallone hawking ham, or Richard Gere modeling for “Dandy House”, a Japanese spa exclusively for men. But those commercials are really, really old, so here is a list of ads featuring Hollywood celebrities aired in recent years.

Brad Pitt

Handsome hunk “Buraddo Pitto” or lovingly called “Burapi” by the Japanese has won the hearts of women all over Japan. Men admire him too because he is the epitome of “kakkoii” or cool. Attesting to his popularity, he has appeared in commercials for different products, notably, he has been the spokesman for Japanese jean maker Edwin, canned coffee brand Roots, and cellphone giant Softbank.

He has appeared in a number of Softbank commercials, but two of the more interesting ones are the ones he did with American Samoan born sumo wrestler Musashimaru. Take a look below.

In the first commercial, the blurb at the end says, “In choosing a phone, choose a light one”. The second one urges the viewer to “Stop rejecting things out of hand. Even cellphones.”, a dig at people who dismiss Softbank phones.

Here are some of his older commercials for Edwin jeans and Roots coffee.

Brad Pitt Brad Pitt

Britney Spears

If you’re a celebrity, you know you’ve reached the stratosphere in Japan when the Japanese make a nickname up for you. Just like Brad Pitt is “Burapi”, Britney is called “Buri-chan”, a shortcut of her Japanized name “Burittonii”. (“Chan” is an endearment attached to girls’ names.) She is popular in Japan since she embodies “cute” and “sexy” at the same time, which is an anomaly among Japanese celebrities because usually, a Japanese idol or singer has only one image, the cute kind or the sexy kind, not both.

Here are her Japanese TV commercials for a drink called GG Tea.

Leonardo di Caprio

“Leo-sama” has long been a favorite actor of the Japanese, especially among “cultured” people. “Sama” is an honorific, the more formal form of “san” which translates to “Mr.” A closer interpretation would be “Sir” Leonardo. And “Sir” he is is indeed, as he now has the image of someone who enjoys bourbon whiskey, a highbrow drink in Japan. Here is his latest Japanese commercial for Jim Beam.

Leonardo has appeared in a number of TV commercials for different products and brands. Interestingly, he has pitched cars for Toyota, Honda and Suzuki Motors.

Toyota Commercial with Leonardo di Caprio

Honda Commercial with Leonardo di Caprio

Bruce Willis

“Die Hard” star Bruce Willis isn’t so tough in his latest Japanese TV commercials for car maker Daihatsu. In this 4 part series, Bruce plays himself, a Hollywood actor contracted by Daihatsu to appear in its commercials.

The first commercial shows a Daihatsu boss who insists that the new ad campaign for their latest car the Mira E s, should focus on the car, and not on a star. However, the ad people tell him that they’ve already hired a big Hollywood guy. In the last clip, we see Bruce on his way to Japan practicing his Japanese lines.

The second commercial shows the boss still insisting that the message should be about the car’s features, and not about Bruce. Bruce walks in and eventually flubs his lines, and the Daihatsu boss isn’t happy.

Bruce Willis in a Japanese Daihatsu Commercial

In the third commercial, the boss tells the ad men that the message isn’t being put across and that Bruce is standing out too much. The ad men assure the boss that this time the message will stand out. In the last clip, we see the message written on Bruce’s long black coat. The boss agrees that the message does stand out, but not in a good way.

In the final commercial, we see a happier boss telling Bruce “You’re a good Mira E s salesman.” Bruce asks, “So you’ve sold a lot?” The boss affirms good sales and Bruce says “I see, all because of me, right?”. The boss mutters, “Bruce pisses me off.”

Bruce reportedly got 3 million dollars for saying a few lines for Daihatsu.

Miranda Kerr

One of the more bizarre commercials aired just last year starring a foreign celebrity is top model Miranda Kerr’s ad for Lipton Lemon tea. She sings “This is fierce! Let’s drink Limone”. It’s just too strange for words. The first image is just a screenshot.

Miranda Kerr

Cyndi Lauper

Appearing for just a few seconds, Cyndi shows her kooky side for Uniqlo jeans. The tagline says, “Women, make your lives colorful!” Cyndi was most likely asked to appear because of her song “True Colors”.

As these commercials show, in Japan, anything goes. Pity the celebrities who agree to such madness, but ultimately they have the last laugh, all the way to the bank.

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