There’s something about Japanese popular culture that always seems a bit futuristic compared to the rest of the world. From conceptual fashions by Yoji Yamamato in the 1980s to blockchain today, Japan is often quick to embrace new trends and new technologies. This is especially evident in the recent advertising campaigns for various cryptocurrency exchanges like Tech Bureau’s Zaif, Bitflyer, DMM Bitcoin, Bitrade, and Coincheck which are all tapping into Japan’s star power.
According to CM Soken Consulting, a commercial research firm operated by Tokyo Kikaku Co, “the presence of TV commercials by cryptocurrency exchanges has significantly increased in the past year.”
The Japan Times reported that “between Dec. 20 to Jan. 19, TV ads by Coincheck and Bitflyer were aired 819 times in the Kanto region, comparable to major firms such as Toyota Motor Corp, NTT Docomo Inc, and Mcdonald’s Japan.”
The news outlet also noted a huge billboard for “DMM Bitcoin featuring a Japanese celebrity coated in gold” is prominently displayed in the extremely popular and chic Shibuya shopping districts in Tokyo. It’s basically the Japanese Rodeo Drive or Beverly Hills. “When I was in London I would see ads all over Facebook, but, never on TV or in the streets like this,” said one a British tourist per the article.
Japan hosts a high number of active cryptocurrency exchanges.
Kenji Harashima, a senior researcher specializing in financial technologies for the Mizuho Research Institute was quoted: “Japanese exchanges are the most active in the world. Not only is this the result of tight regulations in China and South Korea, it is also because you can use leverage to make investments.”
DMM Bitcoin, Bitflyer and Coincheck “have all advertised on web platforms such as Youtube, Facebook, and Instagram. These same exchanges have also aired TV commercials,” the publication added in order to paint a more complete picture of the campaign as a whole.
Last week, Tech Bureau, which operates Zaif cryptocurrency exchange, started airing a commercial across Japan featuring beloved and prolific actress, model, and singer Ayame Goriki.
The 1-minute commercial also features an original song which roughly translates in English to “Zaif for bitcoin” by a band called “Kaneko Mari & Zaif 2 Da Moon.” Zaif says that the nationwide promotion is aimed at increasing consumer awareness and public perception by “improving the image of the [cryptocurrency] industry as a whole.”
Japan’s largest cryptocurrency exchange by volume, Bitflyer, was the first to run TV commercials starting in April of last year. Back then, the Japanese government had just legalized bitcoin as an acceptable method of payment.
Bitflyer hired Japanese actress and model Riko Narumi as company spokesperson and figurehead.
Meanwhile, DMM Group just started advertising its bitcoin exchange at the start of 2018. The company launched a cryptocurrency exchange under the brand name DMM Bitcoin in January which currently supports 7 cryptocurrencies. Recently, DMM Bitcoin also launched a mining center and a showroom in Kanazawa City, Ishikawa Prefecture, Japan.
DMM Bitcoin’s commercials feature an actress and model known only as Laura as well actress Rika Nakagawa. Laura has also been in some other DMM Group commercials such as its foreign exchange branch DMM FX.
Bittrade and Coincheck cryptocurrency exchanges have also tapped into star power to promote their businesses.
Bittrade hired Japanese actress Ruriko Kojima to be its spokesperson while Coincheck hired popular comedian Tetsuro Degawa. Unfortunately, Coincheck’s ads were taken off the air following a hacking attempt that cost the exchange ¥58 billion worth of NEM.
“Coincheck executives have admitted that they might have put more priority on attracting customers with ads rather than enhancing security,” Japan Times wrote. SBI Holdings’ CEO Yoshitaka Kitao was also quoted as saying: “The thing that makes me the most angry is that they spent money on commercials that should have been spent on their systems.” In response, the Japan Cryptocurrency Business Association (JCBA), an industry group with over 150 members including Coincheck, has requested its members to “advertise responsibly.”
So, while advertising cryptocurrency exchanges will go a long way in normalizing what is still an experimental new technology, it’s best to make sure security remains a top priority.
(To learn more about cryptocurrency regulations around the world, read South Korea Enforcing Real-Name System for Cryptocurrency Exchange.)