The Word Works

: Advertising


Winners' Circles (Designing the Database)

Published By: John on 01/09/11
Categories: Winners' Circles Consuming Japan Advertising

Getting down to the nitty-gritty. If you need a quick introduction to the basic principles of database design, this is the place to look.

The database in which the credits data used in the social network analysis are stored was developed in Filemaker Pro. In Filemaker Pro the data are stored in tables and displayed and manipulated in layouts in which data from multiple, related tables can be combined. This database has three primary tables: Ad, Creator, and Role, which currently contain information from the TCC annuals from 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001, 2006, and 2007. In total the database contains records on 4536 ads, 8579 creators, and 34907 roles linking creators with ads.

But why these three tables, and how do they function? The following discussion is a bit technical but deserves close attention from readers who wish to know how the analysis reported here was done as well as the conclusions drawn from it.  It may also be useful for those contemplating similar research to know that working out these details took me several months of intermittent hacking before I got them clear.

In this type of database, the data are stored in fields, with the fields referring to a single case combined in a single record. To readers familiar with spreadsheets, it suffices to say that if a table is represented in spreadsheet format the fields are the the columns; the cases are the rows. But why, in this database are three separate tables required?

It is a basic principle of database design that there are three and only three fundamental relationships between the data contained in separate fields: one-to-one, one-to-many, or many-to-many. If the relationship is one-to-one, the two fields can be combined in a single table. If the relationship is one-to-many, two tables are required, with a unique identifier that appears in both tables used to link one to the other. If the relationship is many-to-many, three tables are required. Two of the tables have a one-to-many relationship to the third, called the join table, that provides a bridge between them. To see how this works in practice, we now take a closer look at the data contained in the Ad, Creator, and Record tables.

Each ad that appears in the TCC annual is a unique case, with several attributes, each of which stands in a one-to-one relationship with the ad in question. Each ad has only one sponsor, one lead agency, one industry category, one year and one medium. These basic items all appear with the ad in its record in the Ad table. Calculation fields (a special kind of field that displays the result of a calculation) are used to code the raw data in the basic fields; so that, for example, ad agencies can be coded as Dentsu=1, Hakuhodo=2, ADK=3, and Other=4.

Each creator has a personal name and surname. But here we have a problem. Different individuals may have the same names. The solution is to assign each creator a unique serial number. A calculation field is used to combine the first three letters of the surname with the serial number to create the name used in the social network analysis. Thus, for example, a copywriter named Maki Jun (where “Maki” is the surname and “Jun” the personal name), whose unique serial number is 65, becomes Mak65.

While calculation fields are used for coding information in both the Ad and Creator tables, the basic one-to-one relationship between the fields in each table remains undisturbed. In the Role table, which functions as a join table and provides links between ads and creators, things are a bit more complicated.

The problem here is that creators and ads have many-to-many relationships. The same creator may be credited with several different roles in the production of an ad: the same individual may, for example, have played three roles, creative director, copywriter, and planner. In addition, two or more individuals may be credited with the same role: thus, for example, multiple copywriters may have worked on the same ad. Records in the Role table each contain three vital pieces of information: a unique identifier for an ad; a unique identifier for a creator; and a category label for the type of role in question: copywriter, art director or film director, for example.The unique identifiers are automatically generated serial numbers assigned when new ads or creators are added to the database, and the pair of unique identifiers specify precisely the particular role in question. It is the roles specified in this way, as unique combinations of ad and creator that become the links analyzed by the social network analysis software.

In sum, the ads and creators are nodes in the networks analyzed. The roles are the links which connect them.

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Winners' Circles (Assembling the Data)

Published By: John on 01/09/11
Categories: Winners' Circles Consuming Japan Advertising

Where did the data for this research come from? What are the sources and how were they used? These are basic scientific and scholarly questions for which this section begins to provide some answers.

Anyone who studies the Japanese advertising industry confronts mountains of data. Like the field geologist confronting a range of real mountains, he will not be able to disassemble and analyze the whole range. Question No. 1 is what and where to sample. The samples, moreover, are bound to be incomplete. This research makes use of archival data; but archival records are, in fact, like geological strata, sometimes twisted or broken in ways that leave gaps in the record.

One possible approach would be to explore the trade press that has, in some cases, covered the Japanese advertising industry for a half century or more. Sendenkaigi, a monthly magazine devoted to “marketing and creativity” started publication in 1954, the same year that the ADC was founded. Sendenkaigisha, its publisher, now publishes a variety of similar periodicals that target advertisers, designers, sales promotion and PR experts, and editorial writers. Koukoku Hihyou (Advertising Critique), which ceased publication in 2010 after a forty-year run, aimed to provide a critical (but supportive) perspective on the relation of advertising to mass culture. Business periodicals like those published by Nikkei Shimbunsha (the publisher of the Nikkei Shimbun, Japan’s equivalent to the Wall Street Journal) might also be consulted. The Nikkei Advertising Research Institute’s annual white paper is a source of which heavy use is made in this research. And of books about Japanese advertising, both single-author and collections, there seems to be no end.  All of these sources need to be used with care, since changes in format and editorial policy may have altered the types of information they provide. When, for example, I first subscribed to Sendenkaigisha’s Brain magazine, its focus was market research. The current incarnation of Brain covers advertising art and design. We shall return to these issues in Part II, when we look more closely at the historical context of the trends revealed by the social network analysis.

The data for the social network analysis reported here are taken from the Tokyo Copywriters Club Advertising Annual. This annual is not the only publication of its kind. The the first edition of this annual was published in 1963, the year in which theTokyo Copywriters Club (TCC) was founded. The Tokyo Art Directors Club (ADC) was founded nearly a decade earlier, in 1954, and it, too, publishes its own annual. The All Japan Radio & Television Commercial Confederation (ACC) annual, which contains the results of the yearly ACC CM Festival and has been published continuously for forty-five years. All three annuals provide credits data like that used here. There is much overlap between them but also differences. To choose to use data from one instead of the others is, thus,  to adopt a particular perspective on the industry as a whole.

The author’s choice to use data from the TCC annual is, like much anthropological research, opportunistic. He became acquainted with this annual while working as a copywriter, used it as primary source material while teaching, and acquired the collection of recent volumes whose perusal inspired the research reported in this book. Other perspectives will be considered, but the research reported here is focused primarily on the world of Japanese advertising as seen by those who, like the author, has pursued careers as copywriters and creative directors.

The reader should also be aware that, while the TCC annual has been published continuously since 1963, the data reported here are only from the 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001, and 2006 annuals. Why not all of the data since 1963 and why these particular years? The author’s collection of these annuals includes a continuous series starting in 1979. His collection of the earlier volumes is incomplete. It would, of course, be desirable to have data from all of the available volumes in the database; but since the data must be transferred manually from the printed pages of the annuals to the database, the expense in both time and money prohibited this choice. Data from the 2001 annual were used while designing and testing the database, and the decision to cover three decades at five-year intervals resulted in the years indicated above.


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Winners' Circles (Why Social Network Analysis?)

Published By: John on 01/07/11
Categories: Winners' Circles Consuming Japan Advertising

In this section of the introduction, I talk about how social network analysis became the focus of this project.

My first encounter with social network analysis was in the late 1960s, while still a graduate student at Cornell. I no longer remember precisely whose work I was reading. It does seem likely, however, that it had to do with the Rhodes-Livingstone Institute research in Central Africa directed by J. Clyde Mitchell. Mitchell’s students were all involved, in one way or another, in studies of individuals who had migrated from tribal homelands to cities in search of employment opportunities. In this new setting, their behavior could no longer be attributed solely to the implications of tribal institutions. How they formed ties and interacted with co-workers from other tribes as well as their own had to be considered. According to Lin Freeman’s history of social network analysis, it was Mitchell who recognized that a series of studies on superficially different topics shared this structural core (Freeman, 2004:4).

At this point, however, I was unaware of social psychologist Jacob Moreno’s work in the early 1930s on small group dynamics and his invention of Sociometry, the identification of social stars and later key opinion leaders whose interest becomes the tipping point at which new trends take off. I was also unaware of developments in graph theory, the branch of mathematics on which network analysis tools are based. As I then imgined it, social network analysis was, in effect, synonymous with the study of what sociologists call “informal organization,” social relationships that escape the boundaries of formal organizational structures. It may have been some notion of the importance of informal relationships that led to my seeing Chinese ritual as more about establishing and manipulating relationships than simply affirming corporate group or territorial boundaries. At this stage, however, my use of the concept of social network analysis was only metaphorical. It was neither empirically grounded nor solidly quantified.

In any case, interest in social network analysis receded into the background and became a path not taken until 2007, when casting about for a new research project, I noticed that, while teaching a seminar on the making and meaning of advertising at Sophia University, I had acquired a small collection of recent volumes of the TCC?L???R?s?[?N?? (TCC koukokukopii nenkan, Tokyo Copywriters Club Advertising Copy Annual). The annual, published every year since 1963, contains the output from the club’s annual ad contest. Every year, several thousand pieces of advertising are submitted as entries to the contest. About ten percent of the entries make it into the annual, divided into roughly a dozen industrial categories (the exact number of categories has changed a bit over the years). Each and every ad in the annual comes with a set of credits that list not only the medium in which the ad appeared, its sponsor and the agency and/or production houses that paid for and produced the ad but also the names of the individuals who made up the team that created the ad and the roles for which they are given credits. It occurred to me that if the credits were put in a database, I could use social network analysis to see which individuals worked together in winning teams, identify key figures and trace their careers over time.  I could also map how how their relationships changed over time and explore how these changes reflected the development and overall structure of the industry. I would have a solid framework on which to hang historical and ethnographic data.

Thus it was that an overall plan for the project took shape. It would start by creating a database for the credits data,  studying social network analysis and learning available software. Meanwhile, on a separate track, loomed another task. The key figures in the networks examined in this are often authors in their own right. They have written or contributed chapters to books in which they expound their views of how advertising works, what makes a good idea, what goes into a good presentation, how the work should be produced, team-building or leadership. They are also frequently interviewed in an active trade press, asked to comment on current topics of interest to the industry. The publications in question produce hundreds of pages each month and are available in series that go back for half a century or more.  For this part of the task, the anthropologist would have to be an historian and had a lot of work to do. Finally, there was the holy grail. Having done the social network and historical analysis, the ethnographer might be able to interview some of the people in question, to hear what they had to say, to correct or add to his findings.

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Winners' Circles (The Anthropological Observer)

Published By: John on 01/06/11
Categories: Winners' Circles Consuming Japan Advertising

The previous post addressed the influence on the author of being a participant in the industry he is studying. Here the focus shifts to his academic training as an anthropologist and how that is reflected in the structure of the book.

The anthropologist who peers over the shoulder of the adman in me is the product of late 1960s graduate training in anthropology at Cornell University and two trips to Taiwan (1969-71 for dissertation fieldwork; 1976-77 for advanced training in Chinese). It was during the first of the trips to Taiwan that I was asked the question to which this book is my latest answer.

Clancy Engler, the Maryknoll missionary who was priest of the local Catholic parish in Puli, where my fieldwork was based, had been in Taiwan for fifteen years and spoke Taiwanese like a native. The first time he asked me, “What can an anthropologist teach someone like me?” I had no ready answer. It seemed absurd to imagine that a fresh-off-the-plane, green behind the ears, just starting to learn Taiwanese young anthropologist like me would ever have anything to teach an old hand like him.

A year later, I had an answer. I could point out a few things about Taiwanese ritual of which Clancy was unaware. I had had the extraordinary privilege of spending a whole year with no other obligation than to talk to people and look for answers to whatever questions occurred to me?\and more important here, my training as an anthropologist had given me questions to ask that had never occurred to a priest busy running his parish.

The late 1960s were an exciting time to be a novice anthropologist. All sorts of new ideas were in the air. I was excited by Claude Lévi-Strauss’ advice in the “Overture” to The Raw and the Cooked to look for the logic in tangible qualities (that later would help the adman a lot when it came to talking with art directors). Mary Douglas’ Purity and Danger epitomized a renewed focus on social and cosmological categories and, in particular, on people and things that fall in the cracks between them (which later resonated a lot with my advertising colleague’s rule-breaking habits and endless search for something new).  I was persuaded by Clifford Geertz that ethnographers should strive to produce “thick descriptions”(1973:3-30). I was particularly impressed by the opening paragraph of Geertz’s essay “The Impact of the Concept of Culture on the Concept of Man.”

Toward the end of his recent study of the ideas used by tribal peoples, La Pensée Sauvage, the French anthropologist Lévi-Strauss remarks that scientific explanation does not consist, as we have been led to imagine, in the reduction of the complex to the simple. Rather, it consists, he says, in a substitution of a complexity more intelligible for one which is less. So far as the study of man is concerned, one may go even further, I think, and argue that explanation often consists of substituting complex pictures for simple ones while striving somehow to retain the persuasive clarity that went with the simple ones. (1973:33).

Geertz’s amendment of Lévi-Strauss is a fair amendment of what this book strives to be. It substitutes complex pictures of Japan’s advertising industry for the simple ones with which it begins. The research it describes begins with a simple visual image of a range of mountains that captures a bit of commonsense knowledge about the industry’s overall shape. The research uses scientific tools to analyze the structures that underly the topography and the processes that have led to their formation. It also employs interpretive, historical and ethnographic methods to explore what the history revealed by the scientific analysis meant to some of the key figures involved in making that history.

But reader be warned: neither science nor interpretation can claim to be a complete account. Japan’s advertising industry is a very large and complex business. An active trade press, government and private researchers have been generating data about the industry ever since the 1950s. This data stream is a river flowing into an ocean where it mingles with other political, economic, and cultural information. The picture presented here will be complex but it remains at best a cartoon. Those who wish to learn more or to challenge its depictions will have plenty of work to do.


Geertz persuaded me that ethnography should produce thick descriptions. The only problem was that he never explained how to do it. It was my good fortune, however, to spend a year at Cornell while the British anthropologist Victor Turner was teaching there. Turner remains to this day my model of how a great fieldworker goes about his research.

Turner was British, and like other British anthropologists, was trained in social anthropology, regarded back then as the branch of sociology that studies people who lived outside Europe and North America, where the rest of sociology conducted its research. A former Communist turned Catholic and a member of the Manchester School, he was deeply immersed in Marxist theory and, it now seems to me, conceived of his research paradigm in terms of infrastructure (production and reproduction) and superstructure (ideas, religion, art, theater). Thus, his research began with sociological fundamentals: demography, village maps and house diagrams, kinship, marriage, property, inheritance and succession to office. These would be synthesized in an overview of social structure and process that would frame his research on more cultural topics: rituals, symbols, social dramas and the role of performance in social life. He taught his students that we begin with social structure and process, to which we add what we see (our own observations) and what we hear (the native exegesis, what the people whose lives we study tell us). None, he insisted, are the answer to the ethnographical puzzle. All are pieces that go into the final picture.

Turner’s model defines the structure of this book. Following this introduction, Part I will present the results of social network analysis of the credits associated with the ads that appear in the 1981, 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001 and 2006 editions of the Tokyo Copywriters Club Advertising Copy Annual. This analysis shows us who worked with whom as members of the teams whose ads won places in these volumes. It allows us to identify key figures in the networks that connect the members of these teams and to trace several distinguished careers over the decades covered by these data. It also reveals the impact on both networks and teams of fluctuations in Japan’s economy and, on the media side, of the rise of TV and decline of print media during the period in question. Part II begins by recounting the history of a long and sometimes heated debate over what the roles of copy in advertising and of copywriters in producing advertising should be. I concludes with extracts from conversations with several of the key figures identified by the network analysis, to explore how they see this debate and the ways in which the industry has changed over the years in which they have worked in it. The conclusion pulls together what we have learned, examines the limitations of the study in terms of both data and method, and suggests directions in which similar research might be improved.

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Winners' Circles (The Frog in the Well)

Published By: John on 01/05/11
Categories: Winners' Circles Consuming Japan Advertising

The next bit of writing for Winners’ Circles, the book I am working on. It describes the advertising industry participant’s perspective I bring to the book.

When I followed my wife Ruth to Japan in September 1980, I was an unemployed anthropologist. Ruth had followed me to Taiwan for my dissertation research, so it seemed only fair that, when she, who was studying Japanese literature, got her fellowship for a year at the Interuniversity Center in Tokyo, I would follow her to Japan. Besides, our daughter was four, and we didn’t want to break up the family. Having spent the previous year working as a research assistant in the Yale Computer Science Department’s AI Project made me more knowledgeable than most about digital technology at a time when Japanese high-tech companies were starting to flood the world’s markets with electronic typewriters, PBXs, PCs and dot-matrix and laser printers, copiers and fax machines. That, and a connection provided by one of Ruth’s colleagues, got me a job with a small corporate communications company that led, three years later, to my being hired by Hakuhodo to write English copy for export advertising. A few years later, I was part of the team that produced the pan-European launch of a new autofocus camera system, having won a competitive pitch against several European agencies. Following that break, I was promoted to “International Creative Director” and began carving out a niche helping my Japanese colleagues present their work on domestic campaigns to international clients headquartered outside Japan.

I mention all this because, while I was trained as an anthropologist and had done fieldwork in Taiwan, I was not doing fieldwork while working at Hakuhodo or later, after leaving the agency, as Ruth’s partner in our company The Word Works ( I was busy with whatever the workday demanded and never got around to the systematic research that fieldwork entails. Thus, when I offer anecdotes based on my own experience, I am at best an informed informant, informed in the sense that I have some idea of what that other me, the anthropologist, is looking for. The social network analysis of archival materials, historical research and interviews with industry figures that make up the bulk of this book are essential grounding for arguments for which my haphazard memories are, by themselves, too weak a support.

That said, there are a few anecdotes that should be told because the incidents in question have shaped my interpretations of the other evidence the book contains?\at least as much, I suspect, as the academic ideas that have gone into its construction.

I vividly recall Kazuhiko Kimoto, the senior creative director who had given me my job at Hakuhodo, swearing after six months or so that he would never, ever hire another academic. To put the matter bluntly, my writing was still pedestrian; I would still get lost in the technical details of the products for which I was writing advertising and fail to extract a compelling story and squeeze it into the space allotted for the ad in question. Fortunately, Kimoto never tired of providing the verbal whacks on the head that eventually led, Zen-like, to enlightenment and the realization that deciding what to say (never everything; there was never room for that) and how to say it (to seduce instead of bludgeoning the reader) were essential aspects of the trade into which I had stumbled. There are other ways to craft effective advertising; but, working with Kimoto, I learned the art of isolating a critical detail in a product and constructing a story about it that would fit the client’s image of what the client wanted to communicate.

Thus, for example, the first of my ads to win a prize in a local English-language advertising contest was written to publicize the client’s introduction of a new printing technology for its line of electronic typewriters. The technical point was a mechanism that ensured that in every line typed the characters would be perfectly even. Having started business as a camera manufacturer, the client was obsessed with image quality. The winning headline read, “We put our reputation on every line.” Another example was a small print ad for a concert program. The client was a tire manufacturer that sponsored a Japanese youth orchestra concert at Carnegie Hall. Leafing through the client’s annual report, I noticed a picture of an airliner touching down on a runway. Any chance, I asked the account executives, that the airliner that carries the orchestra to New York land on the client’s tires? Their “Yes” led to our using the picture I’d discovered and my adding the headline,“Another way [the tire manufacturer] supports the arts.”

I also recall two conversations with Kimoto. One occurred at a time when the agency was making one of its periodic efforts to make people in the creative division conform to company work rules, i.e., show up and go home on time. Kimoto told me, “There is only one rule. If the agency gets business because you are here, you can ignore the other rules.” During the second conversation we were talking about the way in which young non-Japanese (yes, I was still very young then) would demand greater responsibility for the work they were doing. Kimoto remarked, “Look around you. This is a big company, and there is more responsibility to be taken than there are people willing to take it. Don’t try to do what somebody else is already doing. Find something that ought to be done that no one else is doing?\and just do it.” The result would be, he said, that within three months you would be the person in charge of doing whatever that was. He was right.

These interactions and conversations made an indelible impression on me. In retrospect, I now realize that much of what I learned from Kazuhiko Kimoto was conventional wisdom ?\ the conventional wisdom, that is, of people whose job is to find critical details and construct compelling stories, people who are always looking for something new, something no one has done before, people who break rules to strengthen the impact of what they produce, people I admire as mentors and models, the individuals whose lives and works are the focus of this book.

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Winners' Circles, A Work in Progress (Introduction)

Published By: John on 01/04/11
Categories: Winners' Circles Consuming Japan Advertising

After three years of preparation, John is finally getting started on writing up his Winners’ Circles research using social network analysis to drive ethnographic and historical research on the advertising creatives whose ads have been published in the Tokyo Copywriters Club Advertising Annual. I will be using this blog to post drafts of material intended for inclusion in the book whose writing is now in progress. For example, the following introduction…

This book lies at the intersection of one life and three perspectives. For thirty years I have worked in and around the advertising industry in Japan, for thirteen of those years as an English-language copywriter for Hakuhodo, Inc., Japan’s second-largest advertising agency. While working at Hakuhodo, I acquired a narrow understanding of how export advertising is made in Japan and developed a desire to know more about the Japanese advertising industry and the world of my Japanese colleagues who create advertising for Japan’s domestic market.

I am also an anthropologist, whose fieldwork in Taiwan led to a dissertation on the symbolism of Daoist magic. My participant’s desire for a broader understanding of the advertising world in Japan has stimulated my thinking about how to extend ethnography?\the anthropologist’s face-to-face encounter with those whose lives he studies?\to do research on a multi-billion dollar industry that employs thousands of individuals, who are, at any one moment, working on hundreds of projects in multiple media that are, themselves, continually evolving. The approach I’ve adopted here is to combine personal experience, interviews with key industry figures, and historical research based on trade publications?\with the use of new scientific tools for social network analysis.

Putting together the results of these various forms of research has led to consideration of philosophical issues that divide researchers across the full spectrum of social sciences and humanities, pitting those who favor quantitative analysis and computational modeling on the one hand against those who insist that research on human beings requires a qualitative, interpretive approach. After a long intellectual journey that began with growing up in a deeply religious household and has led through philosophy and history of science to anthropology and advertising, I find myself straddling the two sides of this argument. My position, as of this moment, is that all anthropology is at the end of the day like archeology, an attempt to assemble convincing stories from fragmentary data and should, thus, wherever possible include scientific analysis. Those who work in advertising may also see similarities to a process that attempts to meld marketing research and creative inspiration into compelling business propositions.

The result is a book that readers with different interests may read in different ways. Some will have a particular interest in Japanese advertising. Here they will find a history of Japanese advertising with a particular focus on the 1980s, 90s and naughts, a period that saw the rise of TV and the decline of newspapers as Japan’s major advertising medium. The thematic focus will be on advertising copy and the role of the copywriters who produce it. Others may start with a broader interest in advertising per se or in advertising’s role as one of the “culture industries” that produce media content and shape the public imagination. They may find it interesting to learn that the Japanese advertising industry differs in organizational structure and approaches to handling clients from its counterparts in North America and Europe. A few may wish to pursue the scholarly issues raised. For them the book’s success or failure will turn on how well it succeeds in extending ethnography and incorporating both quantitative and interpretive approaches to the data it considers.

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The 300 million dollar testimonial

Published By: John on 09/19/07
Categories: Advertising Marketing Media

This image was scanned from a fax sent to John by Sato Kuniko, a now retired Hakuhodo account executive. image?@In it he says that John’s presentation skills were responsible for Hakuhodo winning what ultimately turned out to be 30 billion yen worth of media billings from Buena Vista International. Forgive me, I, too, was stunned.

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Super Salesmen

Published By: John on 04/16/07
Categories: Advertising Marketing Senden Kaigi

The gentlemen you see here are featured in the 4/15/07 issue of Senden Kaigi devoted to account executives, the people who do the ad agency’s hardest jobs. Each is an expert in one of the areas indispensable for those aiming to succeed in this increasingly challenging field. Read on to see what they have to say.image

1. New Business Super Eigyo
  UCC Coffee Marketing Bucho
  ?D???b???@Orikata Keisuke

Q1. What is the best way to approach a new client?
A1. Treat those you are talking to as equals.

Bring your own point of view to everything you observe, why frankfurters are sold in two-pack sets, for example, or why a package has this particular form. Don’t just thoroughly research the client. Thoroughly understand your own company’s strengths, since these are what you have to sell. Be confident in the strengths you discover. Never be fawning or excessively humble.

Q2. How do you avoid being nervous when interacting with a client’s Advertising Division chief?
A2. Be powerful.

It all depends on how you think about it. Put yourself in the shoes of the client’s president for whom the Advertising Division is only one part of the company. Treat the conversation as a dialogue, recognizing that the client may have different opinions about your proposals or access to information that you don’t have. Think “sharing.”

2. Orientation/ Presentation Super Eigyo
DG&Ibex Founder
???????@Tsujii Ryoichi

Q3. What should you pay most attention to when receiving an orientation?
A3. Don’t assume that the client is right.

Your goal at an orientation is to understand the issues confronting your client. My experience suggests that in many cases the client may be unaware of all of the issues at stake.  An account executive must be ready to help the client discover and address those issues. Critical points to keep in mind include the division to which the person giving the orientation belongs and the source of the budget. Someone from the advertising department may be more interested in image-building. Someone from a sales division may be more interested in sales promotion.

Q4. How do you avoid giving presentations that miss the mark?
A4. Think carefully about your company’s position.

To my mind, the account executive is the top planner and producer and must take good notes at the orientation. Without a clear understanding of what the client wants, presentations may go astray. If you feel that you lack experience and are likely to miss something, be sure that other members of your team attend the orientation. Later, in the final stages of preparing a presentation, consider your own company’s position from the client’s perspective. If you are seen as the likely choice, throw a fast ball. If you are not the likely choice, try throwing a curve, instead.

3. Teamwork Super Eigyo
McCann-Erickson Japan CEO
???V?????@Nakazawa Junichi

Q5. How do you pull external and internal staff together to form an effective team?
A5. To move people, you must first earn their respect.

An account executive must be able to sort out relationships with all sorts of people, both inside and outside his company and bring them together to form a theme. Their respect is indispensable. He must also be closely attentive to trends, observing not only the client’s activities, but also social and consumer movements. One could say the same, of course, of all marketers and planners, but this ability is essential in the one who has to lead the team.

An account executive must be a conductor.

Like the members of orchestras, people who work in the communication industries are highly individual. The art lies in combining their strengths, so that 1+1 doesn’t equal 2; it equals 4 or 5. This ability is not restricted to those who have reached a certain age. Sincerity is the key.

Q6. How do you restore morale when relations between client and in-house staff have soured?
A6. Things you don’t like, even failures, are opportunities for growth.

When you lose your positive energy, it is easy to feel depressed. My experience teaches me that whenever this happens I have an opportunity to grow. However hateful the people or the job, I can, at least, promise myself that I will never act like this.  I can also tell myself that the sun will rise in the morning, tomorrow will be another day. There is no pleasure like work that goes well. I remember that as I move on to the next job.

4.  Troubleshooting Super Eigyo
kazepro Representative Director
???????@Toneri Naoki
Q7. How should an account executive handle relationships with client and staff when troubles occur?
A7. Every problem should be an opportunity!

Our work involves people, so problems are unavoidable. Regard them as chances to demonstrate how you, yourself, can do your job right. So, if trouble occurs, be ready to take responsibility for it, even if it isn’t your own fault. It is your job to deal with the client, come what may. Even if the problem is due to a company unrelated to your own, it is the account executive’s job to take full responsibility, to apologize and restore good relations with the client. This stance will improve your standing with your suppliers as well as your clients.

Adopt a consultant’s perspective.

Consulting means constantly asking yourself what is best for the client’s business. Putting the client first and taking responsibility will win the trust you need for your own business to succeed.

5. Relationship-building Super Eigyo
Shingata Soken Account Planner
???c?N???@Matsuda Yasutoshi

Q8. What do we need to do to be more than just order takers?
A8.?@Charm and IQ. Both are essential.
Sales is seduction, so nothing is more important than combining charm and intelligence to create a comfortable mood. Charm alone will leave you just an order taker. IQ is also essential. Since it is natural, however, for the client to know more about the client’s business, the account executive should carefully study other industries and be able to offer success stories involving other firms.  It is also important to consider every issue from the client’s president’s perspective and carefully present ideas that you are confident will be good for the client’s business. Don’t simply take orders from the Advertising Division.
Note, too, while ad industry people are often believed to offer consumer insight, that alone isn’t enough. What clients most often find lacking in ad agency presentations is business insight. They do want to see that you understand their industry and their business and can offer unexpected insights here as well.

Q9. Are there times when an account executive thinks, “If only”?
A9. When you don’t understand, be modest and ask.

No matter how much you study, there are always things you don’t know. Don’t be bashful when this happens. Modestly ask your client about them. Look for surprises. Even if you don’t use them immediately, jot down ideas and have them ready to use, at a half-year branding review, for example. Pick up key concepts from successful campaigns across a wide spectrum of industries. Combining them you are sure to find good answers for your clients’ needs.

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And the Grand Prix winner is...

Published By: John on 02/19/07
Categories: Advertising

imageDentsu Kansai’s Takaaki Yamazaki, copywriter, creative director, planners and narrator for the series of TV commercials for Hot Pepper magazine that won the Tokyo Copywriters Club Grand Prix for 2006. These ads, the latest in a campaign that has been running for five years, combine straightforward promotional ad copy with images taken from apparently utterly unrelated movies. Yamazaki explains that when he was trying to come up with his first ideas for the campaign, he wasn’t getting anywhere. He had procrastinated until it was time for his annual medical checkup. Then, while sitting in the doctor’s waiting room, he found himself staring at a movie with the sound turned off playing on the TV set. He found himself saying “Sugoi! (amazing!) and realized, he doesn’t know why, that putting ordinary words in the mouths of actors in movie settings could turn them into effective copy.

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Media, Media, Everywhere.

Published By: John on 10/04/06
Categories: Advertising Media Senden Kaigi

image The first ever 29-station, whole JR Yamanote Line poster rally campaign with different posters at every station was the first of two media innovations noted in the October 2006 issue of Senden Kaigi.

Celebrating Release of Ayase Haruka CD

Ayase Haruka has starred in the dramas “Shouting About Love at the Center of the World”(???E????S??A??????????)  and “White Night Travels”(?????s) and been featured in TV commercials for Ohtsuka Pharmaceuticals’ Poccari Sweat sports drink. To celebrate the release of her new CD “Intersection Days” (?????_days), 29 posters were created, one for each of the 29 stations on Tokyo’s JR Yamanote Line. Each poster featured a different image of Ayase and a line from the lyrics of the songs on the CD. According to a Victor Entertainment spokesman the use of the lyrics in 29 different posters was designed to stimulate imagination and attract fans.

Honda Stream Promotion

If you want to sell cars, what better place to advertise them than in a parking garage. That seems to have been the idea behind the creation of a 3D ad combining an actual car with images and copy painted on the wall beside it in Roppongi Hills,  Shibuya Parco, La Chic (Nagoya) and other parking garages in fashionable shopping areas.

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From Low-Malt to No-Malt, Kirin Nodogoshi-nama

Published By: John on 06/19/06
Categories: Advertising Marketing MCEI

image Classic Japanese beer is a strongly flavored Germanic brew. In the 1980s, it was challenged by lighter tasting but more alcoholic “dry” beers. Then came happoshu, low-malt “sparkling spirits” designed to evade the higher tax on beer. Now is the era of the “Other miscellaneous (2)” beer-like “third beers” that contain no malt at all. But how are they being marketed? The 2005-2006 MCEI Marketing Excellence Award goes to Kirin Nodogoshi-nama.

The Japanese beer industry is squeezed in a trap with three sides. Consumer tastes continue to shift from heavier tasting, more bitter beers to lighter, “more drinkable” beers. Taxes raise the cost of beer at a time when Japanese consumers are increasingly cost-conscious. And the elephant in the room is the fact that Japan’s shrinking and aging population simply drinks less beer. In their home market Japan’s brewers are forced to launch new products that attempt to redefine their markets. At the presentation that won the Marketing Communication Executives International (MCEI) Marketing Excellence Award for 2005-2006, Kirin sales promotion chief Oki Tadahiko explained how Kirin Beer attacked this problem with the launch of what is currently the best-selling “third beer” in Japan, Kirin Nodogoshi-nama.

Price-conscious Consumers

Research showed that price was a major consideration. The proportion of price-conscious Japanese women had risen from 35% to 61%, and Japanese women control the pursestrings of the working men who are heavy beer drinkers. Taste preferences were shifting, too. In a four-cell table with mild vs. sharp as one dimension and clean and flavorful as the other, the trend was clearly in the mild and clean direction (bad news for sharp and flavorful Kirin Lager).

Development of a no-malt third-category beer began in 2000. More than 160 experiments on 20 possible alternatives to malt were performed. Finally Kirin settled on soy protein. Meanwhile debate raged inside Kirin. Was creating a third category the right strategy? Wouldn’t the new product cannibalize existing brands, especially Kirin’s successful Tanrei happoshu brand? If competitors moved first, wouldn’t Kirin be stuck in a me-too position? But the critical question was still, would the new product be what consumers were looking for?

New Category Research

Research focused first on the issue of whether the new product would be mistaken for happoshu. Tanrei was launched with a message and packaging that emphasized its connection with Kirin. Its label featured the same Kirin, a mythical dragon-giraffe , as that on Kirin Beer labels. There was also the issue that 125 yen per 350ml can, the proposed price of the new product, was only 20 yen less than the 145 yen charged for happoshu. Attention turned to how to differentiate the product and offer consumers something truly new. The brand concept that emerged was “A beverage you want to drink a lot of with friends, without having to worry about it.” You’d like the taste and wouldn’t have to worry about the cost.

How to Make it Look and Taste Like Beer

A vital technological issue in producing a “third beer” product is achieving the right taste and color. Kirin’s solution, for which patents are pending, is browning, a process in which sugar is added to the fermented soy protein and then the mixture is heated, caramelizing the sugar and giving the beverage the color as well as the taste of beer

Designing the Brand

Instead of the mythical Kirin,  Nodogoshi-nama cans are stamped with a logo that appears to be a large red seal. This design is carried through in 6-packs and other packaging. At the end of the day, though, a critical factor in selling the product was the TV commercials in which a comedian plays the role of an earnest Kirin salesman who works all out to help his customers sell the product. He’s here, he’s there, he’s everywhere, always dressed in his yellow jacket and full of smiles and optimism when it comes to his product.

Down-home and Upbeat

This is a point that Oki stresses. Kirin’s edge in Japan is still its huge distribution network. To the audience he was speaking to, he didn’t have to belabor the fact that Kirin hadn’t been feeling very good about itself, ever since the disastrous 1980s when Kirin Lager, the brand that had truly been the king of beers in Japan, had been dethroned by Asahi Super Dry. The success of Tanrei had helped to repair its image, but there was still work to be done. Nodogoshi-nama would not only be tailored to the shifting tastes and growing price-consciousness of Japanese consumers, it would also become a symbol of a mood at once down-home and upbeat. The not-too-bright but comically cheerful salesman is a Japanese Everyman. He works hard and is always pleasant and helpful, but he doesn’t take himself too seriously. The contrast with Asahi Super Dry’s hard-charging international journalists, photographers and businessmen is striking and seems somehow a better fit with the mood of Japan today.

But that’s only speculation. The fact is that Kirin Nodogoshi-nama is No.1 in its segment, and the segment is growing?\a success by any business measure.

The material reported here is extracted from the MCEI Bulletin, No. 448, May 2006. More information on Japanese beer categories can be found by Wiki-ing Japanese beer and happoshu.  Images and additional information (Japanese only) can be found at the Kirin Nodogoshi-nama campaign site.

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The world's biggest outdoor ad? Who got to see it?

Published By: John on 06/19/06
Categories: Advertising Senden Kaigi

image This aerial photo shows what our local news called the world’s largest outdoor ad, which covered the whole of the roof of the Pacifico Yokohama conference center.

The advertiser was Dove, launching a new moisturizing cosmestics remover called Dover Lifting Moisturizer. The headline reads “No more hiding our skin.”

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The Headline Caught My Eye

Published By: John on 05/28/06
Categories: Advertising

Where else in the world but Japan would you find an ad that boldly proclaims Underwear is Precision Machinery?image

This Triumph International corporate ad appeared in the Sunday, May 28, morning edition of the Asahi Shimbun.

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