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...]

Why US brands are investing in Japan today

This post is based on a speech I gave on March 18th at an event to celebrate the opening of my network MullenLowe Profero's new San Francisco office, attended by friends and clients.  There is a lot written about Japan and it’s basket-case economy in the US press, and most of it is wrong. The reality on the ground is quite different, and I would like to tell you about a few of the smart American brands that understand this and are profiting. In doing so I am going to try answer a pretty simple question: Why do some great American brands choose to double down and invest in Japan today, while others pull out? Is it hard to do business in Japan? Well, it’s not yet a vassal state of California, but it is a relatively easy country for brands to get up and running in, with the … [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...]

The Japanese advertising industry in a nutshell

In this article I try to unravel one of the marketing industry’s most enduring mysteries: why Japanese ad agencies have succeeded in holding on to such a dominant position in the Japanese market, despite all the efforts of the major global agency networks. I believe the answer lies in a fundamental difference between Japanese and western audiences and the models the agencies use to approach them. (A new follow up to this post can be read here) The western agencies' strategy paradigm I entered the advertising industry off the back of 4 years studying physics at Oxford University, so I was more than a little predisposed to reductionist theories. I was therefor relieved to find a rational framework for solving communication problems, loosely referred to as  the ‘account planning … [Read more...]

Why LINE is eating Facebook’s sushi lunch

This is an article I wrote for the industry journal "Marketing Interactive" in November 2013. Since WhatsApp was recently acquired by Facebook, and now goes head to head with LINE in the chat app race, it is good to be reminded of where LINE has come from, and what makes it so unique and adaptable. The published article was much whittled down, and although it may be an easier read, it left out several of the more interesting cultural nuances that makes LINE so appealing, as well as its cultural-hybrid origins, so I have belatedly printed my original draft below. The Marketing Interactive version can be seen here. On the face of it Facebook have a lot to be smug about when looking at their Japanese footprint. The original Japanese social network Mixi is in rapid decline, and … [Read more...]

Becoming a creative hybrid – Tokyo Memoirs Chapter 3: Culture Hack 2007

The third post in my "becoming a creative hybrid memoirs" series, describing my experiences growing a hybrid creative company in Tokyo which I co-founded in 2004. This chapter covers the middle of 2007 when we ran a run away hit campaign that was a "culture hack" on Mixi's burgeoning social platform that played off mainstream media and Hollywood icons by creating a novel Hollywood x Web creative hybrid space. The first episode of my "becoming a creative hybrid can be read here! ************************* Tokyo memoirs chapter 3: A "Puchi" viral hit By the start of 2007 we were starting to get on a role, and then in the spring of that year came our big break: a pitch for a campaign to promote a high profile Hollywood movie Die Hard 4.0, the 4th of the hugely successful series. The … [Read more...]

Becoming a creative hybrid – Tokyo memoirs chapter 2: 2005~2006

The second post in my "becoming a creative hybrid memoirs" series, describing my experiences growing a hybrid creative company in Tokyo which I co-founded in 2004. This chapter covers roughly the 2nd and 3rd years of Alien-Eye, during which we struck upon a winning formula for creating viral video contents in Japan, and came of age as "growth hackers", the more recent term for marketers that focus on high impact low budget growth tactics on digital. This period also includes the emergence of Mixi as a cultural force in Japan, which we embraced as the first open social platform for sharing content and which marked the paradigm shift from "viral" to "social". The first episode of my "becoming a creative hybrid can be read here! ************************* Tokyo memoirs chapter 2: Creative … [Read more...]

Becoming a creative hybrid – Tokyo memoirs chapter 1: 2004~2005

The first in a series of posts describing my experiences running hybrid creative businesses in Japan. I spent my first two years in Japan working in Ogilvy, an international advertising agency, as part of the WPP Marketing Fellowship Program, a 3 year program sponsored by Ogilvy's parent company and global marcomms goliath WPP Ltd. I spent my first year in Ogilvy London, and then persuaded my mentor on the program to let me transfer to Tokyo. Half way through my second year in Japan I had decided to set up my own company when my 3 years ran up. That company was Alien-Eye, founded in October 2004. There were 3 main reasons I needed to get out and do my own thing, despite all the smart people I got to work with: i) I did not feel I was getting enough exposure to Japanese language and … [Read more...]