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Overview of the Japanese online advertising landscape

Are you thinking about running online advertising campaigns to promote your business in Japan? The once traditional-media focused nation has been seeing a dramatic shift to digital over the past few years. In this article, we compiled the latest trends surrounding online advertising in Japan as well as how to begin online promotions. 

Online Advertising in Japan

Japan has one of the most mature advertising markets in the world. In fact, it comes in third place for total media ad spending ($51.75 billion USD), just behind the USA ($285.21 billion USD) and China ($90.94 billion USD)1.. In a country that promotes consumerism, the Japanese audience are often receptive to ads and are accustomed to being swarmed by advertisements on a daily basis. If you have ever been to Japan, you will know that billboards are everywhere in cities, and ads shout at you from every urban street corner. The same is true for public transportation and this is the norm. The Japanese are used to this massive input of information, every single day.

This also applies to online. Celebrity endorsements and anthropomorphised animated characters are heavily seen in both traditional and digital media. 

Source: Statista (February 022)

For a nation known for its technological advancements, it is surprisingly behind its western counterparts when it comes to digital marketing. Many traditional companies still value TV and magazine ads over anything online. Yet in recent years, (and in the wake of COVID-19 and forced digital transformation at Japanese companies) Japan has finally started to catch up to the rest of the world. In fact, in 2021, total internet ad spend in Japan was 2,705 billion JPY (approx $23 billion USD), exceeding mass media ad spend (TV, newspapers, radio, magazines) for the first time2. Top digital trends in Japan include a continuous increase in digital ad spend, with many companies switching their focus to online marketing initiatives, influencer marketing and video content.

Here is a graph that breaks down Japan’s digital advertising spend. As you can see, the largest share goes to search advertising, followed by banner (display) ads, social media advertising, video advertising, and classifieds.

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Source: Statista (June 2020)

We will elaborate on the top three online advertising categories, and how you can use each one to grow your business in Japan.

Search Engine Marketing 

Search Advertising: Google and Yahoo! JAPAN

In Japan, Google is not the only major search engine. The other popular search engine platform is Yahoo! JAPAN claiming 17.4% of the market. In fact, if you are promoting to businesses, Yahoo! JAPAN has the no.1 share of PC users. We laid out all the features of both Google and Yahoo! JAPAN and their differences in our blog post here. In summary, we recommend advertising on both platforms to ensure maximum reach of Japanese internet users. If brand awareness is your goal, then try running display ads on Yahoo! JAPAN, which we’ll talk more about later under Display Advertising.

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Make sure to go over our beginner’s guide to the Japanese PPC market for details on search and pay-per-click advertising.

Social Media Marketing

Sponsored content and ads on social media are effective ways of promoting your brand, product or service to a certain audience. Unlike PPC search ads, promotions on social media will help to build an online community in Japan. Yet similar to search engine marketing, it’s important to understand who your audience is and choose your platforms strategically. 

Here is a complete guide to social media in Japan to better understand in detail how the Japanese use each of the popular platforms. We will highlight the top platforms here for advertising:

LINE Japan

LINE is the no.1 messaging app AND social media platform in Japan with 90 million monthly users. It’s a super app similar to WeChat and WhatApp with multiple features and functions. If your target is mobile phone users, you can reach 83% of them in Japan on LINE. Businesses can open an official account, much like a Facebook company page, and use the interface for community management. LINE Ads use targeting features similar to Facebook and can appear on other apps within the LINE Ads Network. For more information, you can read our article on how to use LINE to promote your business to Japanese mobile users.

TWITTER (48 million MAU)

Japan’s most popular social networking site is Twitter. If you are targeting Japanese consumers, this is the platform for you to use to build your community and hear what your customers are saying. We recommend promoted content on Twitter if you are selling a B2C product.

INSTAGRAM (33 million MAU)

If you are a B2C brand with a target audience between the ages of 18 to 29 years old, your main platform should be Instagram. Selling on Instagram is also growing in popularity, especially in Japan. Japanese users are three times more likely than other countries to view product details from shopping tags. Make sure to run sponsored ads here as well as partner with an influencer as influencer marketing is widely popular in Japan. 

FACEBOOK (26 million MAU)

Unlike most western markets, Facebook is used like LinkedIn in Japan where most people use it for business networking. If you have a B2B product or service, this should be your main social media platform. Ensure to run promoted ads, accounts, and events on this space.

Display Advertising 

The best platform for display advertising in Japan is Yahoo! JAPAN. It has the no.1 reach for PC users (beating Google) and you can reach 80% of mobile phone users in Japan4. Accordingly, infeed ads on mobile apps have great CTRs and CVs. Moreover, the brand panel ads on both PC and mobile get the most impressions, great for cost-effective brand awareness campaigns. 

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Yahoo! JAPAN Homepage brand panel ad

No matter which type of advertising you choose, proper localisation is critical for a successful campaign in Japan. Make sure to go over our list of 5 common mistakes when localising online campaigns for the Japanese market. If you don’t have a native speaker on your team, our agency employs bilingual Japanese content writers and translators who can transcreate your website content. We are also online advertising experts that specialise in PPC in Japan. Contact us for your free initial consultation and quote.

1Source: Statista (February 2022) 

2Source: IT Media article (February 2022)

3Source: “Most popular social media platforms in Japan” by We Love Social (March 2020)

4Source: Yahoo! JAPAN Media Sheet (March 2022)

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