Thursday, May 10, 2007


For the past year or so, it has been the trend in Japanese TV advertising to include search keywords, rather than URLs, in commercials. The ads typically use a fairly unique, sometimes made-up, word, appearing in a search-engine like box near the end of the commercial. Presumably using a keyword is intended to make it easy to remember; obviously they use odd or made-up words to increase the odds that the advertiser's site comes up first in the search results. I guess the concept of Google Bombs hasn't made it to Japan yet (I say in jest; currently there are half a million hits for "Google Bomb" and another 14400 hits for グーグル爆弾).

Anyway, it looks like the marketing team at Coca Cola Japan put the cart before the horse and has started running ads telling viewers to search for "(^^)" to learn more. It is the left-most commercial under "TVCM Collection" on Coke's site (with the girl smiling in front of a brick wall); I would post a link to the commercial directly, but the site is all flash. Near the end you see a search box at the bottom of the screen with "(^^)" in it.

The only problem is that most search engines don't let you search for all-punctuation keywords! 0 hits on Google; not even Google Japan. 0 hits on Yahoo! and too. Oops.

Besides, "(^^)" is a Japanese emoticon (aka "smiley"). Assume search engines did return results for all-punctuation keywords -- could you imagine the number of results that would come up for something like ":)". In other words, the keyword isn't even unique, making it a terrible keyword even if you could actually search for it!

To Coca Cola Japan's credit, it looks like they had the sense to at least make special arrangements with Yahoo! Japan. Too bad it isn't still 1997. You'd think they would have at least tried their own search keyword in the other search engines (even the small fries) before they paid millions to promote their site using that keyword.

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