Nike Japan ad receives backlash—but is incidentally brilliant

A moving new film by W+K and Nike sparks debate about racism in Japan.

Once again, Nike finds itself on the defense. In Japan, the brand’s new two-minute film by Wieden+Kennedy garnered international attention for shedding light on racism by way of depicting a ‘real life experience’ of a mixed-race teenager. The response has been mixed—some are praising Nike for shining a light on racism in Japan, while others are upset that an international brand has waded into a local discussion and chosen to depict the country poorly.

So what does Ad Nut think? Well, Ad Nut just happens to think it’s one of the best ads of the year. Even if Ad Nut cannot coherently comment on systemic discrimination in Japan, Ad Nut is of the opinion that the ‘real life experience’ of a teenager should never be invalidated.

To those saying that the ad is “creating a false impression of Japan”, it’s not inaccurate to also say that lived experiences are different for everyone. Ad Nut thinks it’s dangerous for commentors to take on the self-appointed role of ‘racism spokesperson’, especially to paint a vision of utopia in a racially homogenous nation.

Plus, to invalidate the girl’s story in the ad is to also invalidate the experience of tennis champion Naomi Osaka. The half-black athlete has previously been vocal about microaggressions and ignorance she faced when in Japan, the country she represents in tournaments. Incidentally, Osaka featured in a 2019 Nike ad where she unsubtly attempted to ‘silence’ critics.

On the production side, this ad is practically flawless—as is usually the case with Nike and W+K work. The writing, the music, and the editing are mesmerising from start to finish, and heavily reminds Ad Nut of a stylish montage on HBO show Euphoria.

Ad Nut is a surprisingly literate woodland creature that for unknown reasons has an unhealthy obsession with advertising. Ad Nut gathers ads from all over Asia and the world for your viewing pleasure, because Ad Nut loves you. You can also check out Ad Nut's Advertising Hall of Fame, or read about Ad Nut's strange obsession with 'murderous beasts'.

Source: Campaign Asia-Pacific

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