Been so busy these past few weeks I didn't get a chance to mention this ground-breaking new media that appeared on Tokyo trains about a month ago.
Japanese printing companies have started offering advertisers the ability to display moving pictures on paper advertisements.
The above ad announces the debut of a new mascara from Lancome that uses a vibrating applicator brush. The poster is made from electronic paper—a technology that allows paper to be written and rewritten repeatedly. So what you're looking at is essentially a paper poster hanging from the ceiling of a subway train in which the image changes.
Similarly some train stations are now equipped with poster banks for electronic paper ads that can refresh with new images at specific intervals. If you're an advertiser and you rent the space, you can replace the ad whenever you want while sitting right at your office desk, since the wall frames are connected to PHS phone networks that tap into the internet.
Last month, McDonald's Japan closed its Omotesando shop without warning and a few weeks later, just as suddenly, this QUARTER POUNDER shop appeared. It's basically the old store, but they've removed most of the fixtures, furniture and wall coverings, closed the dining areas and painted the place black and red. And they've cut the menu down to just a few items. You can order Coke or Coke light, french fries, and either a Quarter Pounder with Cheese, or a Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese (which, if I recall from my training in English and math, more accurately should have been called a Half Pounder with Cheese, but I digress).
If you look closely, you'll see that nowhere on the signage or inside the shop do you see the "Golden Arches." That's because McDonald's never announced to the general public that the store—and the Quarter Pounder—are affiliated with the company (the last time McDonald's sold the Quarter Pounder in Japan was the late 1970's, so essentially it's brand new for most people). McDonald's Japan is keeping the QP's origins a mystery, perhaps hoping to create some kind of drama to generate pre-buzz before the sandwich is released through regular shops. Obliquely, they're running a consumer promotion in which Quarter Pounder shop customers receive a quiz card asking "which famous hamburger company is affiliated with the Quarter Pounder?" Those that bother to mail in correct answers have the chance to win something in a prize drawing.
Why on earth are they going this route? After all, McDonald's has quite a bit of accumulated positive brand equity in Japan, and they can certainly afford to do a national roll out using a real ad campaign. So why open just two specialty locations in Tokyo (there is one additional shop in nearby Shibuya, located, oddly, in a poorly traveled back alley) instead of opting for the time honored approach? The product has already tested successfully in regional Japanese markets.
Perhaps wanting to avoid the blues—what with Japanese consumer spending at the lowest levels in years, and with rival H&M just having opened down the street—the Gap's Harajuku flagship has really ratcheted up its holiday decorations this season. The duo walls of the facade have been blinking impressively with giant snowflakes and holiday greetings, and the grand steps are home to a Christmas tree—I believe—for the first time. Click for a larger view.