The Ancient Art of Ikebana Advertising?

Posted by John Park on Sep 10th, 2008
Sep 10

Ikebana Advertising


Sometimes the best “Eureka” moments come when you least expect it.  A few weeks back, I was watching Anthony Bourdain’s show, No Reservations.  Yes, I do live vicariously through his show.  This particular episode was about his visit to Japan.  In one of the segments, he visits a school that teaches the ancient art of Ikebana.


Ikebana is the Japanese art of flower arrangement.  It has been taught and practiced in Japan for more than 600 years.  Without going in to the Wikipedia description of this ancient practice, I would describe it as an art form to display nature in a way which allows maximum focus on its beauty (lines, symmetry and form) while framing it in the most minimalistic way.  Your eyes are automatically drawn to focus in on the arrangement.  It then encourages you to truly absorb the beauty mainly because there is nothing nearby to distract your attention.

In the segment, Bourdain is given a lesson in putting one of these arrangements together.  As the Ikebana Master was explaining all of the intricacies of a qualifying Ikebana arrangement, he said something that perked my ears.  When Bourdain asked him why an Ikebana arrangement was displayed in such a minimalistic way, the Master explained that natural beauty must be given space to breath and flow.  This single focus allows the viewer to truly enjoy and delve deeper in to the center of attention—the arrangement itself.
And here I thought that “Less is More” was some Madison Avenue theory.  That’s right.  If the Ikebana Masters will indulge me, I’ve decided that Ikebana is really a form of advertising.  When you think about it, successful advertisers have been practicing Ikebana for decades.  Instead of flowers, they were promoting a product or service that deserved single and focused attention.
From my experience, leaving empty space empty is one of the biggest challenges when creating an advertisement, building a web site or developing some other marketing piece.  Of course, it’s hard.  You have a lot to say and most it is originating from the pride you feel of your products, services and business.  The art form is in stopping when you feel that more needs to be said.  This will require practice and commitment to the ancient practice.
The rules of Ikebana advertising are clear.
1)  Create a central focus point.
2)  Let it breathe and flow by giving it space.
So…would your advertisements (arrangements) qualify as an Ikebana ad?  How Ikebana is your advertising or marketing approach?  Is Ikebana advertising right for your business?

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