Japan sells government bonds with taxi ads


As the U.S. continues to set new records for deficit spending, America could look to Japan for a little inspiration, at least when it comes to advertising government bonds. Late last month, Japan's ministry of finance began hawking bonds on the backs of Tokyo taxi seats. The pitch, which will also use posters (like the one here) and TV spots, is the latest in a series of campaigns using celebrities to flog the country's massive debt. Earlier ads starred Koyuki, the one-named actress and model who starred alongside Tom Cruise in The Last Samurai. Current ads feature Junko Kubo, a former anchor on Japan's public broadcaster NHK. They use the tagline, "Peace of mind. Piece of happiness." That promise of mental bliss is a hard sell: At current spending levels, Japan's debt is expected to become 197 percent of GDP next year and 300 percent within 10 years. The lessons of Japan, itself the second-largest holder of U.S. government paper, appear to be lost on Washington: By the end of fiscal year 2010, U.S. debt is expected to reach nearly 100 percent of GDP, meaning that for every dollar the U.S. economy produces, the government will owe a dollar.

—Posted by Noreen O'Leary