You think new Pokémon Happy Meal figures get Japanese kids in television ads excited? You are wrong. They do not.
A new McDonalds ad features three children, a sheepish mother and SpongeBob toys. SpongeBob is popular in Japan, where he's translated into Japanese. But the kids in the commercial are way too excited.
In fact, they made almost every child who has appeared in a Happy Meal spot seem downright sedate.
Compare this with a recent Pokémon Happy Meal commercial from late last year (or this one from a few years back). There's no jumping up and down and heart-attack inducing freak-outs. It's SpongeBob junk that talks. Big whoop.
Granted, these are ads, and everyone is paid to be happy and whatnot. But this wouldn't be the first time McDonald's drummed up false excitement. Back in late 2008, over 2,000 lined up in Osaka's Shinsaibashi to buy Quarter Pounders, which were debuting in Japan at that time. McDonald's Japan later admitted that around 1,000 of those individuals waiting in line were paid to line stand. In Japan, this practice is called "sakura".
Often when new restaurants launch, there are lines outside the door. Those lines might be honest-to-goodness patrons — or they could possibly be "sakura". In Japan, if there is a line, then it's easy to see that it is popular. If it's popular, then those passing by might feel inclined to lineup, too. The line offers a sense of security and validation, that whatever people are waiting for must really, really be worth it.
There are rumors that game companies use sakura as well, especially during hardware launches. If you notice that when new hardware or a popular game launches, the Japanese press are typically sent out to a few select locations in Tokyo (Akihabara, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro) to snap photos of the lines. This is how the initial excitement is judged. The first person in line for the Kinect in Tokyo's Akihabara lists his profession as "sakura".