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  • January 23, 2017

Essential Japanese Print Advertising Materials

Despite the perception of Japan as a high-tech society, some of the most important parts of advertising are done in print. Major cities such as Tokyo and Osaka revolve around a few key commercial areas, where banners, signs, print ads, and flyers dominate the landscape. While this is true of large cities in any country, Japan takes print advertising a little further.

Physical advertising is loud, intrusive, and omnipresent. The game seems to be to shout a little louder than your competition. In modern metropolitan Japan, this is simply the way you get noticed.

Here we will look at three essential marketing materials for Japan. To narrow the list, we are concentrating on materials that you might find around a physical retail store (not general brand advertising).

Free-standing banners

This could be considered the most fundamental element of street-level print advertising. Stores are tightly packed in Japanese cities, so unless yours is easily recognisable you need something to boost visibility. A free-standing canvas banner on a weighted frame is the simplest solution. These are relatively cheap, easy to store / erect, and can be placed directly in the path of the pedestrian.

They are so commonplace that one store can advertise not only itself, but also products that it carries. It is possible to alert the passer-by of your key offerings simply by erecting a series of banners.

Free tissues

Something a bit less expected by newcomers to Japan, the hand-out tissue is another staple of advertising. These are physically handed to pedestrians on the street by an employee or by a contracted “tissue herald” (our words, not an actual job title). These have a broader use than signage; they can be used to show that a store is close by, to market a brand, or to distribute coupons. Tissues indicating store location are usually distributed within a few blocks of a store or at a train station.

With two allergy seasons and one flu season (which is happening right now, incidentally), hand-out tissues are very appropriate for Japan. They are so popular that some tissue heralds bring boxes and can hand all of them out in half a day.

Hand-held signs

In a sea of advertising, it takes a lot to stand out. One way is to stand in a crowded place and wave a sign at people. Signs can be held, like in this image, or worn over one’s shoulders. This provides very high visibility and is a workaround for bylaws that (obviously) state that you cannot erect a sign in the middle of a sidewalk. It is often paired with flyer or tissue distribution.

The issue is that this sort of signage is intrusive. It’s very effective in that the advertisement is very difficult to ignore, but it involves getting in people’s personal space. The saving grace for the sign holder is Japanese etiquette: as a pedestrian, you do not push over or bump into people on the street.

Global Speed prints all materials highlighted in this article. A catalogue can be found at

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