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Navigating Advertising Laws in Japan

Last updated on April 24, 2024

Navigating Advertising Laws in Japan

In the complex world of Japanese marketing, it’s not just cultural insights that shape successful advertising campaigns — a deep understanding of Japan’s intricate advertising laws is equally essential. These laws, if not adhered to, can lead to serious legal issues, tarnishing a brand’s reputation.

Failing to adapt accurately to the local context can lead to legal issues, potentially damaging your brand’s reputation.

Key Legal Considerations in Japanese Advertising

1. Use Superlatives with Caution

Japan’s Act Against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations (不当景品類及び不当表示防止法) strictly controls the use of superlatives in advertising.

Claims such as “No. 1”, “the best”, or “most advanced” need factual backing, adhering to the “Prohibition of Misleading Representations” under Article 5.i. Businesses violating these rules risk penalties from the Consumer Affairs Agency (CAA), ranging from public notices of infringement, fines, and in extreme cases, imprisonment.

Case in point: Miyamoto Manufacturing Co. faced consequences despite providing evidence for claims that their laundry product “eliminates unpleasant odours from indoor drying” and “confirmed by tests to kill 99% of germs”. The CAA found the evidence insufficient, illustrating the rigorous enforcement of these rules.

2. Regulations on Dual Pricing

This Act also governs dual pricing strategies under Article 5.ii.

While not illegal, certain practices such as presenting inflated past prices, fabricating competitor prices, or misleading future price hikes are prohibited. Continuous or frequent discount campaigns with minimal intervals can also be viewed as a violation.

Companies like Aeon Bank have been penalised for inadequately sized disclaimer text in their digital ads, demonstrating the importance of transparency in pricing strategies.

3. Avoid Stealth Marketing

Stealth marketing, where advertisements are not easily recognisable, is banned under the same Act (Article 5.iii) as of October 2023.

This includes covert product placements and native advertising, where advertisements are disguised as general interest content. The regulation requires advertisements to prominently display phrases such as “advertisements”, “promotions”, or “PR”. Any form of marketing that disguises its true intent and influences consumer choice covertly is considered a violation.

4. Specific Rules for Cosmetic Advertising

Under the Pharmaceutical Affairs Law (薬事法), cosmetic labels must be in Japanese and accurately list all ingredients in descending order of predominance. Misleading statements and unapproved claims are prohibited. For instance, drug-type claims such as “clears acne”, “fades discolourations”, and “protects against skin cancer” are all prohibited.

Expert and organisation endorsements such as “dermatologist-recommended” are also not allowed, with the CAA mandating substantial evidence for any claims of superior quality.

The Act against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations also applies, ensuring product labels do not mislead about quality or country of origin.

5. Food & Health Product Advertising Standards

The Health Promotion Act (健康増進法) governs claims made in food product advertising.

Statements like “reduces cholesterol absorption” require substantial scientific evidence. Claims about disease prevention or body function improvement are prohibited for health supplements. For instance, Yamada Bee Farm faced administrative action for claiming their Vitamin D + Zinc supplement helps strength immunity to prevent illnesses. 

Foods for Specified Health Uses (FOSHU) require CAA approval for health-related marketing claims.

Key Takeaways for Compliant Marketing in Japan

Ensuring compliance with these advertising laws in Japan is crucial for lawful and effective marketing. It’s important to ensure that your marketing materials are accurately translated and culturally adapted to avoid legal pitfalls. Hiring a professional translator with expertise in legal and business translations is essential for compliance and effective communication.

At WPIC Marketing + Technologies, we specialise in helping global brands thrive in complex markets like Japan. Our understanding of cultural subtleties and legal details ensures that your marketing strategies are not just effective, but also fully compliant.

Reach out to us to expertly navigate the advertising laws in Japan, ensuring your brand’s success and legal safety.

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