Asahi Breweries “Three Generations of Beer Crafting”

Corporate advertisement series that communicates the true value of a corporation through a portrait of its people

CL: Asahi Breweries AD/D: Ryuichi Yamashiro D: Kuniomi Uematsu C: Yusuke Kaji P: Zennosuke Yamamoto

1960, the year that NDC was founded, was in many ways an important year that cannot be overlooked in the post-war history of Japan. It was the year that the Treaty of Mutual Cooperation and Security between Japan and the United States of America was ratified. It was also the “Year of Design” during which the World Design Conference was held. It is also known as “Marketing Year 1,” when Japan first set out on the path of rapid economic growth and when full-scale marketing began to function as a part of business strategies. All companies began to look to and invest in advertising as a major part of their marketing activities.

Among the work that NDC did shortly after its founding, it was the series of corporate advertisements for Asahi Breweries, starting with “Three Generations of Beer Crafting,” that attracted the most public attention. At a time when there were hardly any corporate advertisements, “Three Generations of Beer Crafting” promoted the spirit of beer-brewers by focusing the spotlight on a family of unnamed workers who had been brewing beer continually at the Asahi Breweries’ Suita Brewery for three generations. It was a masterpiece of corporate advertising. Ryuichi Yamashiro did the art direction; Yusuke Kaji did the copywriting; and Zennosuke Yamamoto did the photography. Zennosuke Yamamoto was a broadcast cameraman who had never taken advertising photographs before, and his straightforward, unaffected documentary-style photographs gave the ad a fresh feel.

Ryuichi Yamamoto had already produced numerous advertisements for clients such as Toshiba, and at this time was nearing his peak. Although he was also a first-rate graphic designer, his advertisements were truly outstanding. When Yusaku Kamekura founded NDC, the reason that Ryuichi Yamamoto was the first person who he invited to join him was that he had great trust in his ability to create powerful advertisements.

If Yusaku Kamekura’s style was structurally “cool,” then Ryuichi Yamamoto’s style could be described as poetic, with a warmth built on humanism. In this advertisement, he turned his humanist eye to the world with greatest effect. After it appeared in the newspaper, Asahi Breweries reported receiving letters with messages such as, “I started crying when I saw that ad,” “I could feel the importance of work and the meaning of life,” “I was surprised by this fresh and unique advertisement,” and “That is the best advertisement in the world; I really admire the talent in that Advertising Section.” This series of ads all used full newspaper pages – an unprecedented size at that time. In that sense as well, they really stunned Japanese society.

The reason that it was possible to make such a bold advertisement was the president of Asahi Breweries at that time, Tamesaburo Yamamoto, who was also the first chairman of NDC. Beginning from the “Three Generations of Beer Crafting” ad, Asahi Breweries adopted the revolutionary campaign strategy of applying a documentary style to all of its advertisements in 1960. Under the leadership of the broad-minded Mr. Yamamoto, said to be the last financier, the company was ahead of other companies and other industries in its advertising activities. In fact, these corporate advertisements for Asahi Breweries were the spark that subsequently led to corporate advertisements by many different companies.

Advertising thereafter became a much bigger business, and the advertising rivalry between companies further intensified with the arrival of television. NDC continued to work for the ideal coupling of Japanese industry and graphic design, and the “Three Generations of Beer Crafting” advertisements could be described as the starting point of that effort.

Kazumasa Nagai
Born in 1929 in Osaka. Withdrew from the sculpture faculty of the Tokyo University of the Arts in 1951. Participated in the launching of Nippon Design Center in 1960, where he currently serves as chief advisor. In addition to many CI and symbol marks, beginning from the latter half of the 1980s, he has produced the animal-motif “Life” series. Major awards include the JAAC Members Award; Asahi Advertising Award; “Museum of Modern Art, Tokyo” Prize at the Tokyo International Biennial Print Exhibition; ADC Grand Prix and ADC Highest Member Award; induction into the Tokyo ADC Hall of Fame; Japan Advertising Award Yamana Prize; Yusaku Kamekura Award; Masaru Katzumie Award; Mainichi Design Award; Minister of International Trade and Industry Design Merit Award; Minister of Education’s Art Encouragement Prize; Medal with Purple Ribbon; the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette; Gold medal, silver medal, and special prize at the Warsaw International Poster Biennale; Grand Prix and gold medal at the Bruno International Poster Biennale of Graphic Design; First prize at the Mexico International Poster Biennale; Grand Prix at the Moscow International Poster Triennale; Grand Prix at the Zagreb International Poster Exhibition; Grand Prix at the Helsinki International Poster Biennale; Grand Prix at the Ukraine International Graphic Art and Poster Triennale; and Grand Prix at the Asia Pacific Poster Exhibition (Hong Kong).

CL: Asahi Breweries AD/D: Ryuichi Yamashiro D: Kuniomi Uematsu P: Zennosuke Yamamoto C: Yusuke Kaji

CL: Asahi Breweries AD: Ryuichi Yamashiro D: Hiroshi Tanaka, Masaomi Uchishiba P: Hiroki Hayashi C: Yusuke Kaji