Tokyo, the host city for the 2020 Summer Olympics and Paralympics, unveiled its logos for the games recently. Designed by Tokyo-based Kenjiro Sano, founder of Mr. Design Inc., the logos are not merely pleasing graphics; according to the Olympics press release, they were intended to convey a deeper meaning. The Olympic mark has a large black and gold “T”, which we are told represent “Tokyo, Tomorrow and Team.” The red circle, which looks like the red sun on the Japanese national flag, is described instead as a symbol of “inclusiveness and the power of a beating heart.” The same graphic elements are used for the Paralympic games, but the gold and silver shapes are placed within parallel bars to form the universal symbol of equality. The “beating red heart” is placed within one of the bars. The meaning attributed to the graphic elements is poetic, but not immediately apparent to anyone seeing the logos for the first time. The fact that the symbolism has to be explained to be understood makes it seem contrived by a public relations committee, trying to read more into a nice-looking logo than is actually there. That’s totally unnecessary. The logos are graphically compelling on their own.
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Editor’s excuse: Let me be frank; mistakes were made. In my defense I think that the misunderstanding proves my main point — i.e., this Pizza Hut ad campaign is very much aimed at consumers in Japan. However, according to my Japanese authority whose credentials are that she grew up in Tokyo and is Japanese, the concept is based on a well-known Japanese idiom, “I’m so busy there are not enough hours in a day. I’d even ask a cat to lend me a hand.” Neko no te mo karetai. Of course, cats are notorious for not doing your bidding. You know the American saying: “Dogs have owners; cats have staff.” Another translation error is that “Pizza Boss” Tencho was born on a riverbank, not under a bridge, and he wasn’t adopted by a poor loving family, but is now part of a poor but loving family. My authority also advised me that as a rule, advertising marketing messages in Japan are less direct than in the U.S., and the Pizza Cat-o commercials are very well conceived, very funny, and everyone in Japan gets it. Below is the post as I first wrote it:
“Aim global, market local” is probably this Japanese Pizza Hut campaign’s takeaway lesson to ad creatives everywhere. Those of us outside of Japan find that not only is the text in a foreign language, so is the humor. Cats dressed in Pizza Hut uniforms are cute, but the link to pizza is baffling. The cats in the commercials were not given people-like traits nor were their movements animated with motion graphics. They just did catlike things, and mostly seemed bored and oblivious to being in a pizza kitchen.
In some ways, these fanciful bus stop shelters in Krumbach, a tiny village in Austria’s Bregenzerwald (hunchbacked world) region, look like an architect’s idea of three-dimensional doodling, but they have managed to make the town a tourist attraction by boasting the world’s most unusual bus stops. Krumbach, which has a population of about 1,000 people spread across acres of scenic farmland, recently formed an association to promote itself as a cultural destination. To foster an international exchange of ideas, it unabashedly invited seven world-renowned architects from Japan, China, Norway, Spain, Belgium, Chile and Russia to each design one bus stop in the village.
“The aim of this project is to link design achievements of international architecture with the know-how and skills of local handcraft-based businesses in Bregenzerwald,” one organizer explained. “This is made possible by involving regional architects as a kind of mediator between foreign creative work and the abilities of our craftspeople.” Although the selected architects were used to being commissioned to design mega-million dollar buildings with doors and windows, they accepted the humble assignment. In lieu of money, the architects were offered a free holiday in Krumbach’s 11th century castle-turned-hotel. The bus shelters were unveiled to the public last May. Without doubt, they put Krumbach on the cultural map. Finding Krumbach’s newest art installations is easy; just hop a bus and get off at the stop.
The massive earthquake and tsunami that struck northeastern Japan on March 11, 2011, made funerals an all too frequent occurrence, draping the country in the black and white colors of grief. The Nishinihon Tenrei Funeral Parlor in Japan sought to soften the somber mood and turned to I&S/BBDO in Tokyo for a respectful advertisement that would remind people of the beauty of life. The agency created a full-size human skeleton out of pressed flowers and reprinted it as a poster with the message “Life Is Endless”. The poster was unveiled at a funeral trade show.
This skit from “Burnistoun,” the comedy sketch show broadcast by BBC Scotland, reminds me of all the devices that, at first, seem like marvelous inventions, but still need work. An example is a recent exchange with that annoying automated iPhone twit, Siri. She keeps calling me “Del-fiend-E,” even though I’ve corrected her multiple times. Last week I asked Siri for the cross street of Gump’s, San Francisco’s venerable luxury home décor and jewelry store. Everybody in the Bay Area knows the 150-year-old Gump’s — except Siri. She said, “There are three dumps in San Francisco, which one do you want?” I enunciated more slowly, spelling out G-u-m-p-’s. She ignored me and started telling me the addresses of the local dumps. I finally asked a passerby for directions.