Tokyo loses one of its brightest stars: A Tribute to Shawn Schrader

Last month Tokyo’s international creative community lost one of its brightest stars, Shawn Schrader, after he lost a battle with cancer. He was in his mid thirties and leaves behind a young family. I first met Shawn in 2010 when he was working as a designer for a small Japanese production company and my company was looking to hire a junior designer. For a western creative in Tokyo his interest in and passion for Japanese culture, and his language ability, made him a rare talent even then. His maturity towards professional relationships for someone his age was also quite striking. I also remember discussing the state of American politics with him over lunch on that first occasion and noted his clear mindedness, passion for ideas and compassion for others. Frankly I would have loved to … [Read more...]

The Japanese Advertising Industry in a Nutshell #2

The Japanese advertising industry is not well understood from the outside. In fact, I am not sure it is that well understood from the inside. In a post I published in 2014 called “The Japanese Advertising Industry in a Nutshell” I tried to sum up what makes it unique, the characteristics of the advertising itself, and explain why it has remained dominated by domestic agencies. In the context of my readership the post "went viral", still gets a lot of traffic, led to a bunch of speaking offers, and sparked off a lot discussion among my peers who work in advertising here in Tokyo. From all of this I learned a tremendous amount and it helped to solidify the ideas, and hence this post is an overdue follow up that aims to: Summarise the original article’s assertions Describe the … [Read more...]

How good is Japanese customer service, and how bad can it get?

Japan has, I believe, a good image for customer service and I have certainly had numerous conversations over the years with foreigners visiting Japan who have been blown away by the attention to detail, courtesy as well as genuine human kindness. Some of the traditions that set Japan apart are things like beautiful and meticulous gift wrapping in retail stores, similarly delicate presentation of food in restaurants, cleanliness in general,  things running on time, and on a higher level safety and reliability. At the same time I have heard many anecdotes, mostly from foreign residents in Japan, but also sometimes from visitors, telling of mind bogglingly annoying treatment. What’s going on here? Is this another one of Japan’s “contradictions”? Japanese cultural stereotypes This … [Read more...]

“Willing complicity”: what advertisers (and users) really want from social platforms

I was recently asked by Campaign Asia to contribute a comment to the news that Snapchat, the newest kid on the chat-app block, is starting to monetise through advertising. As always happens to my comments, it got edited down, (I am yet to master the soundbite!) so I felt compelled to develop the point I was making and share here. I have pasted the original in at the bottom. 4 or 5 years ago Facebook's strength was seen to be the number of ways OTHER than advertising it could monetise its users, at least from the point of view of tech industry savants and savvy investors. Now, post IPO and obligated to maximises profits for its shareholders, Facebook is riding high on its advertising revenues, comprising over 90% of its total, and the tools it provides to its ad publishers like us are … [Read more...]

Lecture on Emergent Properties of the Universe and Tour of Hybrid Sciences

This is a rough script for the first half of a presentation I gave to a group of 12~17 y/o at the British School in Tokyo near the end of 2013. I have pasted some of the slides I used into the script for illustration. I gave it a provocative title in an attempt to maximise attendance!: "Everything they don't teach you at school because they are afraid it will blow your mind!" ***************** I want to take you on a whirlwind journey through time, from the big bang to the present, and across science, from astro-physics to evolutionary biology, and along the way highlight some of the discoveries, ideas and unanswered questions that have thrilled me in my explorations since leaving education and that I do not believe are on the school syllabus yet. Try to note the subjects that I skim … [Read more...]

Growth Hacking for brands and how to grow a hybrid team

I was recently interviewed for a Japanese creative industry magazine "Project Design" to talk about the relevance of "Growth Hacking" (Japanese article here), the approach to growing web and mobile startups that has come to prominence in recent years, to established and non-web businesses. I was interviewed in Japanese, but wrote up the main threads of the conversation in English below. First of all though some context. Why was I being interviewed about Growth Hacking? I have been a involved a lot with startups one way or another. I have had numerous startups as clients over the years, companies with a good product-market-fit for Japan for whom my company has effectively been the growth team for the Japan market. Also through my role as a mentor for 500 Startups, Silicon Valley's top … [Read more...]