Asia advertising week is the world’s largest annual gathering of advertising, ad tech, marketing and media professionals.


Debuting in Midtown complex central Tokyo (Roppongi area) on May 30 to June 2, 2016; Advertising Week Asia was a mix of inspiring thought leadership with legendary entertainment and special events that celebrated the industry and its people. Advertising Week Asia draws from the brand, media, marketing, technology and broader Asian cultural communities while focusing on key business drivers, issues andconversation that shape and influence the global industry.

Not everything in the final summary of Advertising Week Asia is entirely original, but we think these are thoughts worth holding onto all the same. They include the case against homogeneity; how traditional companies can catch up; and why Japan needs to rethink marketing amongst others.



Umang Shah, a marketer who transitioned from the world of tech to Campbell’s Soup, drew on examples such as BlackBerry to suggest what it takes to avoid drifting into obscurity.

“BlackBerry lost the game because it became complacent, he said. Having had all the cards in its favour, with the first messaging app and nearly 50 percent of the US market, it threw them away by assuming its position was guaranteed and losing touch with its users, he said. Shah then pointed to the restaurant “Noma” as an example of how a brand should keep on its toes: After being named the best restaurant in the world, it shut its doors for a year to concentrate on how it was going to remain at the top. “That’s a hard decision,” Shah said. “Most people would just keep doing what they’re doing, and become complacent.”


A green scorecard means no progress
“One of the key things I focus on is forcing failure,” Shah said. “If five projects go through and are all successful, we haven’t tried that hard. Through our innovation lab, we say that a certain number of projects have to fail. You shouldn’t just focus on having green on your scorecard. Yellow and red show you’re trying to reach for big things.” It’s also important to consider how you define failure, he said. Google Glass, no longer in production, might be seen as a failure. But the technology developed for and the lessons learned from Glass have made a lot of other projects possible, he noted. “In reality, it’s one of the most successful projects they’ve had.”


Omotenashi can power design thinking
Shunsuke Ishikawa, design director at Ideo in Tokyo, pointed out that design thinking is really not as complicated as people imagine. In the end, it’s just like being a good host, he said, quoting the designer Charles Eames. The principles of omotenashi (selfless hospitality) can be applied to brand experiences, he said—but to do so, Japanese people need to renew their awareness of this aspect of their culture. He gave the example of Mitsunari Ishida*, a temple worker, offering tea in three stages to the daimyo Toyotomi Hideyoshi after hunting, modifying the temperature and volume according to his guest’s condition; and of chopsticks being soaked in water prior to use for a soup dish, so as not to transfer the flavour of the wood to the soup. “We [tend to] start by thinking about business goals, then resources—but forget about people,” Ishikawa said. “Design thinking starts by thinking of the needs of people: the things that help people live better.”

In the same session, Joe Fry, a Tokyo-based member of Google’s global creative team, related how he had implemented a solution for football training for children in the space of little more than “a couple of beers” spent with the client at a pub. The solution involved embedding near-field communication (NFC) technology into the football, which he did directly after the session at the bar. If a big client had been involved, it could easily take a year, he said. “It’s problematic that processes are too long. If it can be done in two beers, it should be. To experiment doesn’t mean you have to invest lots of money or time.”

The sentiment was echoed by Yasuharu Sasaki, ECD of Dentsu, who gave the example of ‘Refunbilitation’—a project to make elderly people more active using basic technology to create games and other fun activities—to show that technology doesn’t have to be daunting. “These are not made by tech professionals,” he said. “We [at Dentsu] are not technology experts. But Japanese people often say ‘I’m not good at this’, so they never try.”

The best work comes from unlikely pairings
In a standout presentation  Shiseido CEO Masahiko Uotani spelled out the importance of diversity in building and sustaining a successful global brand—not just in terms of gender, but of nationality, background and age. Separately, Jimmy Smith, CEO and CCO of Amusement Park Entertainment, drew on his time at Wieden + Kennedy to make a similar point.
As a young black man, he initially resented being forced to work with a “jerk” like Hal Curtis, whom he took to be “the whitest dude on the planet”. But the coupling ultimately produced one of Nike’s most celebrated basketball ads, and the two become good friends.
“If you want to be the best, you can’t work together with someone who looks like you,” he said. “If your agency is all-white, it sucks. If your agency is all-black, it sucks. If your agency is all-Japanese, it sucks. The only way to take things to the next level is by working together.”


Shiseido’s Uotani pointed to a major hurdle for Japanese companies looking to build global brands: only around 10 percent actually have CMOs, he said. Most tend to think of marketing as a purely tactical discipline to drive sales. “We have to change to be more strategic,” he said. There is hope for dinosaurs. It’s easy to scoff at the efforts of establishment giants to operate more like startups, but the approach should be applauded if the company is serious about change. Mitsuru Takamatsu, president and CEO of Quantum, invited representatives from Japanese giants NTT and Fujitsu to explain how they are embedding a degree of startup culture into their organisations. Both are supporting startups through competitions and funding as a marketing-led initiative to introduce new business models into their companies. It has not been easy: in NTT’s case, the only way to get the president to attend a hackathon was to dress it up as a golf tournament, but he was subsequently converted. But NTT was adamant about one thing: agencies that propose such initiatives need to be prepared to take a risk with the client to ensure sales.


“Is creating a [TVC] sufficient? No. We don’t want anything to do with agencies that can’t provide this level of service,” he said. In his own session, B. Bonin Bough of Mondelez went on to discuss how his company is working to become a media owner in its own right. The food giant created a game that hosts advertising (even from competitors), and customised cookie packaging that sells for three times the cost of the regular product and is expected to become a US$300 million business. “We just have to take the time to identify ideas and allow them to grow inside our organisations,” he said. “Big organisations like ours have the chance to make it happen.”

(Silent) video is the future of mobile
Citing Cisco data that says three quarters of the world’s mobile traffic will be video by 2020, Takeshi Oshima of Facebook said that brands need to take into account that people tend to watch those videos with the sound off. It’s also essential to make an impression in the first 10 seconds, given the speed at which people scroll through feeds on their mobile devices, he said—but according to Facebook research, just 23 percent of ads actually deliver a message that’s easy to understand, within that timeframe, with the sound off.

Very much like Advertising Week, Europe grew out of the London soil, the objective here is the same – to ensure we are respectful and cognizant of where we are, to capture the essence of our host city and region, and to help pave the way forward by bringing many of the world’s best and brightest to Japan and the Asia Pacific.

In 2012, Advertising Week Europe successfully launched in London and since its creation in 2004, Advertising Week has drawn more than 2 million participants from around the world to New York City and starting in 2013, to London, for a weeklong hybrid of thought leadership seminars and unique daytime and evening special events. Beyond education, engagement, enlightenment, & entertainment, the mission of The Week is to inspire young people to join the craft; focus on the social impacts of advertising; and shine a bright light on the business and economic influence of the advertising, ad tech, marketing and media industries.

Advertising week Asia was moderated by David Blecken and panelists include executives from Rakuten, ADK Global, Ultra Super New and McCann Erickson Japan.

Advertising Week is produced globally by Stillwell Partners.

Advertising Week XIII, New York City comes up September 26-30.

Compiled and edited by: Jimmy Adesanya (Facebook, LinkedIn,

Credits: Adweek Asia.


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