Who cares about the financial or competitive merits of the Sprint-Softbank merger? We just want the deal to go through so that Softbank can bring its brilliant, yet bizarre, TV advertising to the U.S. No offense, Dan Hesse — we like your commercials, but you’re no Otosan.
For those of you unfamiliar with Softbank’s massively successful advertising campaign in Japan, Otosan is the canine patriarch of the (human) Shirato family, which also includes Japanese wife Masako, Japanese daughter Aya and African-American son Kojiro. Trust me, it gets even weirder.
Here’s a typical Softbank commercial in which Otosan attends his high-school reunion:
And here’s another, advertising the iPhone:
Despite the success of the Shirato campaign, Softbank has branched out into other equally bizarre but compelling advertising themes. It’s hired Brad Pitt (who can afford Brad Pitt?) as well as film auteurs Wes Anderson, Spike Jonze and Wong Kar-wai to do a series of brand promotion commercials.
Here’s Wes Anderson’s collaboration with Pitt:
And here’s Spike Jonze’s contribution:
But it all comes back to Otosan. Here’s a fun experiment. Try watching this popular ad featuring the Shirato family and Tommy Lee Jones without the subtitles.
Confused? Now try watching with the subtitles. It makes even less sense (unless you happen to be familiar with Jones’ work as a spokesman for Japanese coffee brand Suntory Boss).