Thursday, June 28, 2007

Some jobs should never be outsourced

So, on a local radio station the other night I heard a commentator talking about a billboard ad in Manhattan that shows a procession of rear ends adorned with smiley faces.The ad, which some find offensive, others creative, is for something called a “Washlet.”The “Washlet” is a Japanese invention, sort of a bidet for men and women that can attach to any normal western toilet seat. The word itself is of Japanese invention, and the product sells over there under the same name, except they pronounce it “wa-shoe-reh-to” (we had one of these in Japan, and found at least one good use for it (click here to read a post from our Japan blog to learn more).

A friend of mine who lives in Japan swears by his Washlet , and while I have used them before, I am a confirmed wiper, and I believe that the rest of America is too. In other words, I think Toto, the Japanese company trying to market the Washlet in the United States is crazy to think that Americans are going to Stand up (or, sit down, a the case may be) and get in line for one of these.

“We deserve a little pampering. It's like down comforters.”

Not only does the product ask Americans to change one of the most fundamental habits in human culture, but it also expects you to pay top dollar to do it. Think about it. Toto is not only asking you to stop wiping, but its asking you to switch to a power-washing and a blow-drying instead, and Toto thinks that you will be willing to spend from $700 to $2000 on the over-achieving heated toilet seat? Not this patriot.

I've got to give Toto credit for trying. The “cheeky” billboard is eye-catching enough, if mildly offensive to some. But the website is almost farcical. Navigate to and be prepared for a slot machine style cascade of buttocks, smiling at you. When you click on an image, the buttocks then scroll away, only to be replaced by a series of cascading head shots.

“Whats ordinarily a pretty ordinary task is turned into an opportunity to refresh yourself, to restore yourself, to pamper yourself, every day of your life.”

Each models' skin tone coordinates nicely with the bare bum they replaced, and the heads, which are displayed in an unnerving combination of still photo and short video, line up across the screen and occasionally twitch, blink, or glance sideways like the smiling heads in the opening credits of the Brady Bunch. Click on a model's head and you get a brief video describing one of the many “benefits” of the Washlet.

“Warm air, warm seat, warm water, pretty darn good way to start your day.” customer testimonial

Each video involves the model casually walking across an empty sound stage and coming to a halt beside the Washlet. The actors describe the Washlet, and many sit on it, reclining casually as if they were talking at a party. One spot includes several customer testimonials, another has a computer generated diagram of how the Washlet's retractable arm does its magic.

“I never thought my toilet could be an oasis of comfort and happiness. Who knew?” customer testimonial

The main drive of the campaign falls under the dogma, “clean is happy,” suggesting that a variable temperature, variable pressure, variable patterned stream of water, followed by a fumigating blow dry, will make my bathroom experience more enjoyable, and by extension, make me more happy. Granted I appreciate when the caretakers of a public restroom splurge on quilted two-ply toilet paper, but beyond simply having a clean flushable toilet and some TP handy, I don't think changes to that particular part of my life register on the “What will make me happier” scale.

The other part to this whole thing, is that some jobs should just not be outsourced. Let's just put it this way, I would never buy some automatic face shaver that attached to the wall and shaved my face while I stood there because I would be a bit paranoid about missing a spot. Enough said.


Cristi said...


mayday said...

I wouldn't want a washlet. But that's just me. It seems kinda yucky.