American Celebrity Commercials in Japan

Tokyo skyline

Imagine for a moment you’re watching your favorite TV, show and when the series cuts to commercial, you suddenly see Bruce Willis hawking coffee or Arnold Schwarzenegger promoting an energy drink.

While this level of celebrity endorsement isn’t common in the United States, in Japan advertisers pay exorbitant fees for actors to promote their products.  Such A-list talent as Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney, Charlize Theron, Cameron Diaz, Brad Pitt, Eddie Murphy, and Harrison Ford have all done commercials as themselves that have played exclusively in Japan.  Other advertisements use familiar American characters, such as Superman and 24‘s Jack Bauer, to promote their products.  And while these ads definitely could be constituted as “selling out,” most celebrities feel that domestic audiences likely won’t see the work (with the actor often acting a bit sillier than their reputation would allow).
The late Dennis Hopper told Britain’s Sunday Mirror when discussing one of his advertisements, “I couldn’t believe what they were paying me. If I could do one every year, I could retire.”

So let’s check out ten memorable (and unusual) ads that you likely have never seen before.

10.  Superman for Toyota Prius

Starring White Collar‘s Matt Bomer, who was up for the role in Bryan Singer’s Superman Returns, this Toyota Prius commercial features the Man of Steel scooping the competition with details of the 2010 model.

9.  Ben Stiller for Kirin Fruit Beer

Stiller plays a Zoolander-esque version of himself as he romps with cheerleaders, gets frozen and speaks a bit of Japanese.

8.  Quentin Tarantino for Softbank

Tarantino both directed and starred in this spot for the Japanese cell phone service provider that features a talking dog, a Japanese pop star, and Quentin in samurai robes.

7.  James Brown promoting Miso Soup

To the tune of “Sex Machine” for the win.

6. Sylvester Stallone selling canned ham

In full mullet: business in the front, party in the back and pork product all around!

5. Hulk Hogan endorses air conditioning

But seriously, why wouldn’t he?  He lives in Florida and likely uses it all the time.

4. Kiefer Sutherland for Calorie Mate

Sutherland reprises his Jack Bauer character, promoting a brand of energy-supplement food while racing against the clock.

3.  Britney Spears for UHA Mikakuto Gummy Candy

1999 seems like a lifetime ago and this fun commercial captures the appeal of Spears at the beginning of her career.

2. The Simpsons like their ice cream

This spot, which appears to be a tie-in with the 2oo7 The Simpsons Movie, features the family enjoying a delicious frozen treat.

1.  Arnold Schwarzenegger for Vfuyy Energy drink

The Governator appeared in several surreal advertisements promoting this product.

And one more must see

RoboCop selling fried chicken

This chrome-plated future of law enforcement officer appears in this Korean advertisement promoting takeout fried chicken.

Scroll to Top