Iconic Ads: Shiseido- High School Girls


The film depicts beauty as a universal human ideal, regardless of gender, and serves as a catalyst for people and society at large to reexamine their conceptions of what it means to be beautiful.

A new ad campaign for Shiseido was needed in 2015 that would appeal to young people and show that make-up can be fun. For a cosmetics firm, this wasn’t a unique request, but the implementation was anything else.

The film immerses the viewer in the world of a Japanese high school classroom full of girls. Several of them gaze directly into the camera in what many see as a clichéd depiction of Japan’s kawaii culture, the culture of cute.

The gaze has a curious expression. They seem to be normal girls, but they have a secret — they are actually males. A reverse viewing of the production reveals that.

Shiseido was concerned about the trend of young people spending more time online and less time watching television. They also had to revive the brand’s image. When it came to beauty products, young girls saw Shiseido as a brand that their moms would use. It was safe, but it was also pricey and stodgy for them. Masato Kosukegawa’s creative team at the company hoped to remedy this situation.

The “High school girl’s cosmetics secret” was the result of a brainstorming session during an in-house workshop to address the challenges mentioned earlier. The concept of organising a drag queen contest was discussed at a session on the “rebranding of makeup supplies.” In Japan, there was a trend at that time that saw high school boys dress as ladies for school celebrations, which provided inspiration for this idea. “A video of boys in makeup” was the final decision based on these thoughts. Akira Shima was another one of the team members tasked with developing the concept.

Show Yanagisawa was invited to join the creative team once the decision was made to go ahead. After that, they intended to “show many people” and highlight the process of the changeover’. One shot of six to seven hours was required to complete the filming.

Shiseido’s Beauty Creation Research Centre provided the hair and make-up teams, and the models were readers of the Japanese teen magazine “HR.” Since they had to stay in one position for more than seven hours, it made the models shaky.

Doubts arose when the creative group presented the idea to Shiseido’s Beauty Creation Research team, as Shiseido was the expert in Japan on hair and makeup. A question arose: what’s wrong with doing beauty the old-fashioned way?

Makeovers like these seem to be simple, but they take a great deal of skill. The results reveal that they were able to create something that only Shiseido could have accomplished.

The music of Kazuyoshi Tonami (Grandfunk), Spanova feat. Makura Izumi & Itto, and props are also note-worthy. When the video starts playing backwards, the female vocal changes to a male. The backtrack is reversed too, but they made it sound like a song in both ways.

The feminine vocals become masculine when the video begins playing in reverse. Despite the fact that the backtrack is reversed, it sounds like a song nevertheless. “Playing the guitar upside down to kill time” are lyrics when a guitar is held upside down by a student. Likewise, everything was planned down to the minute details.

The tagline “Anyone can be cute” is a message to everyone, including transgenders.

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