New age restrictions also put in place for actors and actresses, even anime ones.
Japanese society has a decidedly positive attitude regarding alcohol. Aside from the adult beverages flowing freely at the numerous restaurants that offer all-you-can-drink plans, knocking back a few cold ones with coworkers and even workplace superiors has long been considered part of being a team player in the Japanese workforce.
However, that doesn’t mean that Japan is entirely blind to the potential health and safety risks posed by excessive or underage drinking. A collection of nine industry groups, including the Brewers Association of Japan (which includes beer makers Asashi, Kirin, Sapporo, Suntory, and Orion) has begun enacting a new set of self-imposed advertising restrictions.
Among the most unusual is that for television and video ads, a “gulping” sound effect will no longer be allowed to accompany scenes of on-screen talent drinking the product.
▼ Shhhh! Keep it down over there!
While the rule will affect all types of alcoholic beverages, its primary impact will be on advertisements for beer and canned chu-hi (carbonated shochu cocktails), as sake, straight shochu, and other higher-alcohol drinks are generally shown being sipped, not gulped.
This new regulation is said to have come about after the Cabinet Office, part of the executive branch of Japan’s national government, expressed concern that the gulping sound effect, a common component of Japanese beer commercials, could cause mental distress in viewers with alcohol-dependency issues. Along with nixing the sound effect, the industry groups have also decided they will no longer show a close-up of the actor’s or actress’ throat while they are drinking the product.
▼ Hand close-ups are ostensibly still OK.
Speaking of actors and actresses, the industry groups have elected to raise the minimum age of performers who can be featured in alcohol ads. Japan’s legal drinking age is 20, and previously, anyone who’d hit that milestone was fair game to appear in advertisements, and with Japan’s often youth-obsessed celebrity sphere, there was no shortage of candidates in their early 20s.
Moving forward, though, the industry groups say they’ll raise the minimum age to be in an alcohol ad to 25, a move which they hope will help prevent underage drinking. Asahi says that it even extended this guideline to background extras in a recent cherry blossom party-themed ad (cherry blossom parties being a prime time for drinking and also a popular mixer activity for college students, since cherry blossoms season comes shortly after the start of the Japanese school year).
Moreover, this 25-and-up age restriction isn’t just for real-life performers. Last year, Kirin found itself the target of complaints after it commissioned a series of anime ads for its Hyoketsu chuhi brand which showed characters presented as being in their early 20s drinking the beverage. Under the new regulations, though, that won’t be allowed; even 2-D characters must be 25 or older in the case of official designations.
Advertising has always sought to create appeal by drawing on popular trends and attitudes, and as such these new self-imposed regulations are merely one facet of the constantly changing social landscape marketers work in. That said, the loss of the gulping sound effect means that one of the beer industry’s favorite, tried-and-true techniques will be off limits to them, so spokesmodels and endorsers will probably want to start putting even more effort into developing their skills at letting out a satisfied “Ahhhhh!” after taking a swallow.
Follow Casey on Twitter, where he’s OK with you gulping as loudly as you want.