Japanese beer commercials are somewhat notorious for their ubiquitous use of celebrities. The standard approach is to feature a well-known face holding up a glass of cookie-cutter lager and gulping the beverage down with a refreshed expression — and accompanied by an added, exaggerated sound effect.
That redundant gulp may be a thing of the past as new rules from an alcoholic beverages industry body comprising major breweries call for beer advertising to halt the use of close-ups of people drinking and gulping sound effects. The custom, critics say, encourages alcoholism and glamorizes beer.
The new industry guidelines, which were agreed last year and were recently revealed by the Shukan Post weekly magazine, also call for celebrities endorsing the beer to be older. Currently anyone who is twenty years old (the legal drinking age) can be hired and this has been exploited in an effort to promote beer as not just something older men drink. As such, a lot of beer and alcoholic drink advertising features female celebrities in their twenties and thirties (recent examples include Christel Takigawa, Miku Natsume, Maki Horikita, Perfume, and Kiko Mizuhara). Now performers will have to be 25 years or older, including extras.
The use of anime and video game characters — another common trope — may also be phased as potentially encouraging underaged drinking following controversy last year when Kirin used anime advertising to promote Chuhai Hyoketsu. After the brewery attracted flak from anti-alcoholism activists and parental groups it stopped the campaign.
It should be noted, however, that these are just industry guidelines and it is unclear when they were go into effect (presumably from this fiscal year). There is no legal obligation as yet. The government does not seem in any hurry to start regulating beer advertising, though it did outright ban cigarette advertising from radio and television in 2004.
Beer advertising is big business as the main brewers heavily compete to push their wares to an ever-decreasing market as beer consumption continues to slide. This has also led to very uniform strategies toward advertising, to the extent that many commercials are indistinguishable except for the particular celebrity holding the beer. It’s a far cry from the striking and expensive beer ads featured at the Super Bowl.