Nike Japan ad receives backlash—but is incidentally brilliant

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

Nike Japan ad receives backlash—but is incidentally brilliant

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 do we think? Well, it just happens to be one of the best ads of the year. 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. We think it’s dangerous for commentors to take on the self-appointed role of ‘racism spokesperson’, especially to paint a vision of utopia.

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 us of a stylish montage on HBO show Euphoria.

A version of this article first appeared on Campaign Asia-Pacific


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