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Immediately after the earthquake and tsunami of March 11, Japanese television started covering the disaster full-time. As things returned to some sort of version of normal, the spaces where commercials were supposed to run were first filled with public service announcements provided by the Ad Council of Japan. These PSAs were produced prior to March 11 and had no direct relationship to the disaster, but the constant rebroadcast of the same dozen spots in between news reports couldn’t help but reflect on the crisis, especially the ones that encouraged empathy for others and more community-mindedness.

Regular advertising has returned but AC continues to be a ubiquitous TV presence, only now it has augmented the original spots with newer ones that address the situation since the disaster unfolded. The most notable of these is a series of ads featuring celebrities holding up cards with specific requests and cautions — to save energy by unplugging unused appliances, to not hoard consumer goods, to not use e-mail and other communications intemperately. Though nonaccusatory in tone, the messages made some people uncomfortable. Media critic Yukichi Amano wondered in his Asahi Shimbun column why none of them asked people to shut off their TVs.

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