Japanese ads have long been notorious for their silly, over-the-top, and often baffling content.
A quick glance at the multitude of compilations of Japanese commercials on Youtube reveals not only that there’s an international audience for Japan’s colorful ads, but that this trend is far from dying out. Every once in a while, however, an ad comes along that makes such an impact it extends well beyond this niche subgroup of ad aficionados. In 2017, that ad was Sakeru Gummy’s “Long Long Man” commercial.
The first question you might be asking is probably: what is Sakeru Gummy? Although sometimes translated as “gum,” Sakeru Gummy is in fact a gummy candy that consumers can separate, or sakeru, before eating. The candy comes in multipacks of small rectangular sheets, each demarcated into several strips which can be pulled apart, similar to string cheese. As with most Japanese snacks, Sakeru Gummy is available in a range of flavors, the most popular of which are apple, peach, and grape flavor.
While the original Sakeru Gummy comes in small, individual portions, in 2017, a special, super-sized version of the snack hit the market: Long Sakeru Gummy, with 40cm strands of gummy candy. To advertise the new release, the manufacturers commissioned a Japanese advertising company, Hakuhodo, to produce a series of television commercials to help popularise the product. In particular, the manufacturers wanted to create a mature, mainstream image for Long Sakeru Gummy to counteract the childish and niche connotations of its two main selling points.
The resulting commercial, officially called “Sakeru Gummy vs. Long Sakeru Gummy” but colloquially known as “Long Long Man,” won a slew of prestigious awards in Japan and abroad. It tells the story of Chi-chan and Tooru-san, a couple who are big fans of the original Sakeru Gummy and whose relationship comes under strain when Chi-chan becomes fascinated by a handsome, mysterious stranger she sees eating Sakeru Gummy’s long variety. The 11-part series covers a whole lot of ground in its 6-and-a-half-minute runtime: from Chi-chan’s initial fascination, to Tooru-san’s discovery of a suggestive packet of the long gummy in her bed, to Chi-chan’s dramatic reveal of her short life-span and the comfort she consequently derives by looking at long things. Midway through, we’re even treated to a comical scene of Chi-chan discussing the argument while on a break at work, with a friend who immediately produces a whiteboard to demonstrate that Long Sakeru Gummy and the original are in fact the same length—the original is simply cut into pieces to allow for smaller bites and make it easier to eat.
Needless to say, the commercial is incredibly silly and stuffed full of suggestive phrases and knowing winks. Whether it’s the constant reference to “length,” the repeated refrain of “can I touch it?”, or the persistent motif of hand-feeding your loved-one strips of candy, Sakeru Gummy knows perfectly well what it's alluding to. For all its ridiculousness, it’s also a surprisingly delightful, well-made piece of cinema. The short length of each episode keeps things punchy, while the musical cues and ridiculous, soap-opera-like twists give the whole thing the feel of a well-edited gag on Instagram or TikTok. Plus there’s the distressingly catchy jingle of “long long ma-aaaaan” that gets belted out at least once per episode, usually followed by a burst of saxophone clearly riffing off the sax line from George Michael’s “Careless Whisper.” You’ll be surprised just how quickly it gets stuck in your head!
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Regardless, if there’s one thing that virtually guarantees the Long Long Man commercial an important place in the annals of advertisement history, it’s the series’ twist ending. Originally, the commercial was only planned as five episodes, ending after Tooru-san’s jealous meltdown upon finding Long Sakeru Gummy in Chi-chan’s bed. Following its success, however, the story was extended for a further six episodes, allowing for Chi-chan and Tooru-san’s reconciliation, Tooru-san’s marriage proposal, and the Long Long Man’s surprise appearance at their wedding, bearing a bouquet of grape flavor Long Sakeru Gummy. Chi-chan, who’s remained preoccupied with long things and the man in question since his very first appearance, immediately goes to him and reveals where her heart truly lies.
But then comes the twist: Long Long Man steps forth to confess his love, bypassing Chi-chan completely. He confesses he’s been transfixed by Tooru-san from the start, and we’re treated to a hilarious montage of all of Long Long Man’s previous appearances, casting his smouldering gaze in a new light. Confused and a little hesitant, Tooru-san reaches out, asking, “Is it OK if I touch them?” When Long Long man nods, Tooru-san pets at the long gummy bouquet, while Long Long Man reciprocates with the packet of original Sakeru Gummy that Tooru-san (naturally) brought to his own wedding. In the last still, the commercial takes its final bow by changing the motto that’s been repeated at the end of each episode, so that “Sakeru Gummy vs. Long Sakeru Gummy” becomes “Sakeru Gummy & Long Sakeru Gummy.”
Although nominally about candy, the commercial’s final message about inclusion and diversity was a big hit with audiences abroad and internationally. Since its appearance in 2017, the Long Long Man commercial has been translated into countless languages, including English, Spanish, and Chinese, and some fans have even gone so far as to redub the series entirely.
Have you tried the candy from the famous Long Long Man commercial? Know any other quirky Japanese commercials that deserve to be remembered? Japan may be notorious for its love of rules and its obsession with paperwork and hierarchy, but if its commercials are any indication, there’s plenty of creativity to go around as well! It’s only a matter of time before some new Japanese commercial is blowing up the Internet, and personally, we can’t wait.