“Japan seems different — because it is”

Activity in Japan is based upon group consensus and conformity. This means, ideally, that all important members of a group must accept a proposal before any new action is taken — and when it is taken, all members must conform. Interestingly, this ideal of consensus recognizes that there exists a multiplicity of viewpoints and not necessarily just one correct interpretation. This concept was expressed in the famous movie Rashomon, directed by Akira Kurosawa, in which four people give differing, yet equally plausible accounts of a violent crime. This ability of the Japanese to simultaneously accept diffuse viewpoints permits a multi-faceted, almost “cubist” advertising approach. It frequently encompasses the whole gestalt of the product, unlike the narrow, single-point perspective of traditional Western ads. In some cases, it may even take on aspects of surrealism, complete with subconscious imagery.

The headline is the creation of a copywriter whose name I cannot remember. It is not mine.

N.B. I just noticed that Sean Mooney (ex-Managing Director TBWA/Japan) quotes and paraphrases me liberally (including the above) in his book, 5,110 Days in Tokyo and Everything’s Hunky-Dory: The Marketer’s Guide to Advertising in Japan, with absolutely zero attribution. Since copying is the sincerest form of flattery, I guess I should be happy, except that in this case it is plagiarism, to say nothing of copyright infringement.  My original text is at  http://www.destwest.com/belfry.html and has been since 1996, a good four years earlier than Mooney’s book was published. An earlier article of mine on the same theme is in the authoritative reference book, Japan: An Illustrated Encyclopedia; Tokyo: Kodansha, 1993.

I had my intellectual property rights attorney in LA look into this and negotiate with Mooney’s publisher. The publisher immediately recognized that my complaint was valid — that Mooney had in fact stolen fundamental arguments and large portions of the book’s text verbatim from my published work. Despite Sean Mooney’s unethical actions, the publisher’s figures showed that our potential damages would not be enough to make litigation worthwhile. They did agree, however, to cease printing and distributing the book. Whether they have done so is hard to tell, since it is still available on Amazon.



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