Pizza Cats – Lost in Translation or Just Lost; Editor’s Mea Culpa Revisions

Pizza_Cats2

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.

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Kome: The Art of Rice

The exhibition poster features the ancient Chinese character for kome.

A fascinating exhibit is currently on display at 21_21 Design Sight in Midtown Tokyo. Created by renowned Japanese designer Taku Satoh and anthropologist Shinichi Takemura, “Kome: The Art of Rice” presents 35 design pieces by leading Japanese artists and experts in rice cultivation. What makes this show so intriguing is that a food staple as humble as a grain of rice (or “kome” as the Japanese call it) could be shown with such aesthetic sensitivity and with such a thoughtful exploration of the role that rice played in the historical, cultural and spiritual traditions of Japan.

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Public Works Posters

Rob Forbes, founder of Design Within Reach, has founded another company – Public Bikes. To introduce consumers to his new venture, Forbes recruited 27 world-renowned designers and illustrators to create art posters around the concept of “public.” All of these posters are being gathered into a book called “Public Works,” sold as individual posters, and shown in exhibitions slated for San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York City.

Forbes, an avid biker, urban dweller and environmentalist, explains the impetus for his Public Works project was to bring greater attention to the critical issues of public space, access and livability of cities. “In recent decades, our cities have been evolving from manufacturing and industrial centers into cultural hubs,” Forbes says. “The 20th century movement that encouraged people to leave cities for the suburbs has now been reversed. For the first time in our history the majority of the world’s population lives in cities, and this trend appears irreversible….People choose cities for what they offer: connections with people, ideas, stimulation, opportunity, creativity, and diversity. Our public spaces should facilitate these connections, not stifle them.… We believe that more of our urban streets and sidewalks should be reclaimed for walking and bicycling, and that our public spaces should be developed for better human interaction and conversation.”

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Carlsberg and Coke

Extending a brand into global markets isn’t a straightforward process. Product makers have to consider all kinds of cultural and language barriers. Can the letterforms be read? Can the name be pronounced? Does it have a pleasing or harsh sound when spoken? Does the name mean something else in another language? (An example is the famous case of the Chevy Nova, which in Mexico translates to “doesn’t go.”) Then there is the challenge of trying to maintain some graphic consistency so the brand is truly global and not the same product that looks different in every regional market.

Consider how Carlsberg Beer and Coca-Cola graphically translated their logotypes into multiple languages, for example. LogoDesignLove brought the Carlsberg comparisons to our attention. With Carlsberg, note the way that the designers tried to carry over the signature style of the brand — the flat-top squared-off “C,” tri-leaf accent pattern, the swash decorative flourish under the type, the brushstroke-like serif on the last “r.” Although the letterforms differ dramatically from language to language, the various logotypes have a family look that suggests their roots stem from the original Danish Carlsberg logo.

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