Youth Sell Their Bodies As Advertising Space, Netizens React

One of the zettai ryouiki thigh adverts
A new advertising trend is taking Japan by storm. ‘Body advertising’ involves attaching an advert in the form of a sticker or transfer onto different parts of the body to attract attention to the product. Wearers are paid for wearing the adverts, with companies realizing that for those who use social networking sites, the novelty value of drawing attention to yourself or parts of your body through the stickers is highly attractive.

With adverts on faces, thighs, and even underwear, body advertising has become a talking point in Japan. But with girls exposing their legs and boys covering their faces with stickers, is this new trend a clever way of taking advantage of the impact of social networking? Or are companies simply taking advantage of a form of advertising that will soon lose its novelty value? And would you consider using your body as advertising space?


Walking Adverts, Going Through the Town With Stickers on Their Face and Thighs; When Uploaded onto Social Networking Sites, Adverts Spread Easily.

In July, Ohkawa Tatsuya, a Yokohama resident, started ‘face ads’, where advertisements for companies are stuck on his cheek for an entire day. He calls for advertisers on his own website. Once both Ohkawa and his clients come to an agreement, he prints their ads on special paper that can be stuck on the skin using water, and then spends periods of more than 8 hours, from breakfast to bedtime, with these stickers on his face. He’s already advertised about 40 companies so far, from a venture company that develops new apps, to a restaurant.

Advertising fees are 10,000 JPY (about 80 GBP) a day. Essentially, the advertising period is from morning, when he leaves home for work in Roppongi, until he goes home at night, so it also includes post-work gatherings. The place and period for which an advert is worn are also negotiable, Ohkawa will do whatever is possible.

The original face advert

Ohkawa said that the idea was born during a conversation with his co-workers: ‘They made me realise how interesting it would be to combine the digital and the analogue’. On his website Ganmen [Face Ads], there’s a calendar where you can check when he’s available or what company he’s advertising for, with each company’s corporate links. He tweets or posts on Facebook how he promotes each ad, and that makes other people tweet about him too. Kitagawa Takumi, the head of Include Design, a company that runs co-working spaces said, ‘On the day that he advertised for us, the website traffic tripled’.

Ohkawa’s site has been flooded with inquiries ever since the launch. However, he thought having too many face ads around would simply result in less attention. He then decided to launch and run a new website, ‘Dokodemo-Ad'[Wherever Ads] at the end of October. On that site, anyone can register and advertise anything anywhere on their body: ‘If an indie band sticks an ad for some company on a car and carry their audio equipment for their gigs, they make income from it, and both the band and the company will be talked about.’

The trial of body ads has captured the public’s attention. A new book written by Murakami Takashi ‘Non-creative Japan’, (Tokyo: Kadokawa Group Publishing, 2012) placed its ad on womens’ thighs. They asked women around the country to walk through town with the ad sticker, designed by Murakami himself, on their thighs. Sugawara Tsuyoshi, the assistant manager of the publicity department of Kadokawa said:’We can expect to spread word [of the book] if those girls upload their own photos of them wearing this little cute sticker on the Internet’.

Wit, a web marketing company based in Koto-ku, Tokyo, expanded the service, offering something called ‘Absolute Territory PR’ [‘absolute territory’ refers to the exposed skin between knee-high socks and a skirt]. They started recruiting new female members in July and there are currently 1,000 women registered on the site. Any woman can register enroll herself based on two conditions: she must be over 18 years old and must have more than 20 friends on social networking sites. What they’re supposed to do is to spend 8 hours a day with stickers on their thighs then upload more than 2 photos of their ads on SNS. Since girls concentrate on their fashion or poses to make themselves look cute in the photographs, the result is that high-quality photos are uploaded on the Internet. The 21-year-old university student, Nakamura Ami smiled and said, ‘Everyone around me pays a lot of attention to me when I walk around with some stickers on my thigh. I think they’ve found it really hilarious when I put also my knee-high socks on’.

Advert stickers shown on thighs

It is thanks to social networking that this method of advertising has become more effective than ever before. One of the women registered at Wit has 4,900 friends on Facebook, and on average each member has 330 friends. There’s even one woman registered who has 8,000 followers on Twitter. Ads can easily become viral if their friends share those photos. Actually, 20 members put an ad of a futsal stadium for a day, which lead 20 new customers to the stadium. The head of the company, Hideki Atsumi pointed out ‘these ads are actually a perfect fit for women who are looking for content to upload on social networking sites.’
Body adverts for futsal

‘Free-pan [Free pants] have arrived!’ ‘Free-pan are here! Put them on for work tomorrow!’ Hakuro, a company which offers iPhone repair support, started their new service Free-Pan – delivering free men’s boxer shorts with ads of their sponsors printed on them. They launched the website for this new business on August 16, and in early October, the number of members had already reached 80,000. They first shipped their free underwear at the end of September and since then, Free-Pan has been trending online.

Free underwear covered in advertising slogans

The free pants.

According to a spokesperson, the company had tried online advertising; however, more and more companies have followed the same promotion method, and price per advertising has been getting higher and higher. ‘When we thought about what frequently attracts the attention of consumers, we hit upon underwear.’ Though it can’t be exposed publicly, the members of the site or their family see them quite often, and their contributions on the Internet produce media value. It’s estimated that if the members see their own underwear and the ads on it 8 times a day in the bathroom and so on, and wears it once a week for 6 months, they see the ads 192 times.

It costs 500 yen per boxer. Underwear ads for skiing resorts or insurance have already been sent out to consumers.

Body and underwear advertising has had a tremendous impact on the site members and the people who happen to see them wearing the ads, even if they only see them via SNS. However, the more these ads are seen, the less that impact they have. The head of Wit, Atsumi, stated: ‘For now, the thigh ads will be used until October. I’ve already thought of what to do next’. Consumers are looking for a story to upload on SNS while companies are taking particular note of their influence on other consumers. Coupled with mutual demand, more innovative and breathtaking advertising is likely to hit the headlines.

Comments from Himasoku:


It’s legal to take a photo of them then…?


Have to take a photo and record it if we’re ever interested in those products


Ooops, I don’t see well — I’ll have to get really close or I won’t be able to see the ad


Please just stick them on your underwear


Great! I can stare at girls!


On your boobs – why not?


And what about companies that put out adverts…?


Must run foul of the human rights law. Straight to the blacklist if reported to any women’s organisation.


Well no one really walks around with placards saying ‘gimme a job’


Lucky to be a girl – never suspected even if I look at lower regions.


Argh why no QR code there yet? Make it legal to take a close up photo


Does that mean we’ll just first watch girls’ thighs then see if there are any ads there


They can’t really complain, it’s just themselves begging us to watch them


Despite all the excuses, you want us to see there eh? It’d be a pleasure.


But if a gross otaku watches you, call the police.

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  • elizabeth

    I won’t be surprised if there is a rise in rape cases of this trend is perpetuated.

    • Ruaraidh

      Because nothing fills a man with the urge to rape more than a Coca Cola or Nike logo. Maybe that’s why so many footballers are involved in sexual misadventures, because they are surrounded by this sort of rape perpetuating marketing filth!

      • elizabeth

        That’s either a pretty warped red herring attempt or an obvious lack in comprehension skills.

    • PixelPulse

      Guys look at women’s body parts regardless of ads on their body, I doubt a bunch of men are going to go buckwild at a girl with a sticker on her thigh.

      • elizabeth

        Maybe, but when you are giving them an excuse to ogle, then who’ll be responsible for rape? Such advertising is no better than using scantily-clad women on advertisements. Sex sells, not coke.

        • PixelPulse

          The guy who rapes will still be responsible for the rape, are you really suggesting that if a man has an excuse to look at a women like body advertising, it would be the women or the ads fault? And theres a difference in this and the sexy women ads; the person can actually choose to wear what they want as long as it shows the ad on the thigh, it doesnt have to involve little to no clothes.

          • elizabeth

            Men are very visual, unlike women. It’s difficult enough for most not to look. When you invite them to look, what effect would it have on them? It’s no different from seducing and then placing full responsibility on them to keep their hormones in check. Isn’t that a tad unreasonable and cruel to blame men fully for rapes?

            All you need to do is to read the comments from Japanese netizens to get a feel of how men will react.

            Sex education should go beyond condoms and HIV. Girls should be made aware of how their behavior and appearance could get them into trouble and be responsible for taking care of themselves.

  • A Lu

    This idea is old, I’m surprised it still works.

  • When people buy clothing with brands displayed on them, they’re basically paying the companies for the mere privilege of advertizing them. At least with this model, the compensation flows in the more sensible direction.

  • Kate

    I laughed at the netizen comments …it seems like it gives guys a good excuse to stare or get closer to stare. I hope the people doing this aren’t minors…that’d make it creepy…

  • hun

    i remember putting stickers all over my body when i was a kid and im pretty sure that’s where they got the whole idea from.

  • elizabeth

    An advertiser who uses a girl’s thighs and other sexually arousing body parts certainly knows the target market very well.

  • dim mak

    Old idea, never caught on in the west

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