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Bruce Willis is Big in Japan, as Alphaville sang, and when jet-lagged Hollywood A-list stars and Japanese TV ad directors combine their powers for good, advertising magic happens. We don’t always understand what’s happening and neither do the Hollywood A-listers, just off a JAL flight from LAX, but as long as it makes sense to the home audience that’s all that matters.
The car that Willis is trying to sell through his rugged good looks and sheer acting ability is the first-generation Subaru Legacy that debuted in 1989, so it’s not even a Japan-only model as is frequently the case with ads like these. This ad is also notable for the fact that Willis speaks English throughout and is not dubbed over, even though the ad is intended for the Japanese domestic market. While this means we’re spared from Willis sweating through a few lines of American-accented Japanese, it doesn’t make it possible to decipher the “plot” of this ad, which is also curious for the fact that Willis is driving a right-hand drive Legacy on the right side of the road, a road which appears to be on the U.S. West Coast. So he didn’t even have to brave a 12-hour flight to Tokyo.
What we can decipher, however, is that Willis is not a fan of birds. “Hey, get outta here!” the extra-unshaven and disheveled-looking star of the Nakatomi Plaza siege yells, as the depressing Richie Sambora song “The Answer” plays.
Were the birds eating a half-decomposed fish that washed up on the beach? We may never know. But perhaps Willis will come across this article one day and email us to explain the anti-avian stance he was forced to take in this ad, and what the concept behind it was. (Mr. Willis, you can reach us via the tips line at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
In the second ad, it looks like a trench coat-wearing Willis makes a quick getaway as police sirens approach, once again declaring it “The age of Legacy” before slowly jogging toward the car. Was he robbing an ATM positioned just off camera? This ad isn’t dubbed either, so for all Subaru cares he could have been reading the ingredients on a cereal box. (We think this speaks to Subaru’s confidence in the ad’s ability to tap into truly universal, cross-cultural themes.)
Do these two TV spots make us want to buy a first-generation Subaru Legacy? It’s tempting, especially given the Legacy’s seagull policing potential.
In what other car can you pull up to the beach after not shaving for a week and swat seagulls away with your jacket?