Remembering Arnold Schwarzenegger's Bizarre Japanese Commercials
You’ve probably heard of American celebrities going abroad to do commercials in Japan from the likes of Lost in Translation and Bojack Horseman, but did you know that Arnold Schwarzenegger—the unrivaled GOAT of all things bodybuilding—was one of the most prolific stars to head east and sell out for big bucks?
Check some of his commercials here, in all their 1980s ridiculousness.
Back in the 1980s and 1990s, many celebrities wouldn’t do advertising work in the U.S., but they’d happily pose with an energy drink on Japanese billboards. There are a few reasons for this. Back in the ’80s, the Internet wasn’t really a thing, so the chances that American audiences would ever see these, often silly, ads were pretty slim. Celebrities also felt that being seen in advertisements was “selling out,” and people wouldn’t take their other ventures as seriously, whether it be sports, fitness, or acting. With the advent of social media and personal brands being integral to advertising, this mentality has been completely flipped on its head.
In Japan, there is no word for “selling out.” Japanese celebrities would do this and see no issue, especially back in the 1980s. The reason companies in Japan wanted foreign celebrities like Nic Cage and Bruce Willis endorsing their products was because they wanted to get the Japanese people excited at the idea that other cultures liked their local goods.
So why on Earth did Arnold do so much work promoting these energy drinks (among other brands, such as grocery store ramen and canned coffee drinks) if he didn’t want his U.S. fans to know? It’s simple: these commercials got you some serious coin.
While advertising groups aren’t allowed to disclose how much they pay their U.S. stars, actor Dennis Hopper quoted saying, “I couldn’t believe what they were paying me. If I could do one every year, I could retire.” And in 1996, Entertainment Weekly reported that U.S. stars could make anywhere between $500,000 and $2 million for a two-day shoot.
Well, that sounds worth it. Arnold, if you want to drop us a line and tell us exactly how much you made, we’d be very curious to hear how much you were paid to do this:
We’d really appreciate it.