The Word Works

Consuming Japan


Winners' Circles (Establishing the Context)

Published By: John on 01/31/11

We have reached the point where I turn from preliminaries, the personal and intellectual background, to the substance of the study. This section lays out some basic facts and key ideas that will later be developed in greater detail.

Our database contains a wealth of information. Filemaker Pro and Pajek make it easy to analyze and visualize that information. But seeing numbers and graphs is only a step toward understanding. To extract from numbers and graphs what they have to tell us we first have to grasp the context to which they refer. Here that means starting out knowing a few things about the Japanese advertising business and the processes by which the ads it produces are created.
  We have already seen that the advertising industry in Japan is oligopolistic, dominated by three large agencies: Dentsu, Hakuhodo, and ADK. The smallest of the three, ADK, is also a newcomer, formed by a merger of two smaller agencies Asatsu Inc. (founded in 1956) and Daiichi-Kikaku (founded in 1951) on January 1, 1999. Thus, ADK does not appear in our data until 2001. From 1981 to 1996, our Agency attribute refers only to Dentsu, Hakuhodo, and Other.
  As in other parts of the world, Japanese advertising agencies started out as media brokers, buying and selling space in print media: newspapers and magazines. With the advent of broadcast media, radio and TV, they moved into buying and selling insertions, time slots for commercials as well. Today, full-service agencies like Dentsu, Hakuhodo, and ADK also sell outdoor, in-store,  transit (bus, train and taxi) and Web-based interactive advertising.  Japanese advertising statistics typically draw a distinction between the big-four, newspaper, magazine, TV and radio advertising, and other advertising in other media, which historically accounted for relatively small shares of advertising budgets dominated by newspapers and TV.  The importance of commuter train and subway travel gives posters displayed in the halls of train and subway stations a special importance in Japanese advertising.  Their high proportion of winning ads that appear in the TCC annual may, however, owe more to the fact that posters are a highly visible way for advertising creatives to showcase their talents than to the relatively modest income streams that they generate for agencies. 
  Be that as it may, the critical facts for network analysts to consider are, first, that ads are produced by teams whose members are by definitions cliques, subnetworks in which every member is directly connected to every other and, second, that, as judged by the the number of individuals given credits in the TCC annual, the teams that produce TV commercials tend to be twice as large as those that produce print, newspaper or magazine ads.
  It will come as no surprise to those familiar with combinatorics that, if a team with n members is a clique that involves n(n-1)/2 relationships, the subnetworks of creators involved with TV tend to expand more rapidly and to larger size than those of creators involved with print. This becomes an important consideration since over the period analyzed here the proportion of TV commercials included among the winning ads increases from 1981 to 2001, while the proportion of print ads declines.
  It is also important to consider the composition of teams. The TCC annual credits include members of both the presentation and production teams. As their names suggest, the presentation team is the group whose members come up with the idea that is sold to the client. The production team adds individuals with the specialized skills required to produce the ad.
  For a print ad, the presentation team would normally include a copywriter, creative director, art director and designer.  If the idea chosen by the client involves a photograph, a photographer is added to the production team. If the photograph involves models, a stylist and a hair and make-up artist (if models are used) will also be added. Alternatively, if the idea chosen by the client involves an illustration, the illustrator replaces all three.
  Production teams for TV commercials are normally much larger than those for print ads. The cameraman replaces the photographer. A producer and director organize and direct the shoot. In addition to the stylist and hair and makeup artist, there are those who edit the film and those who provide and mix the music.
  These descriptions are, moreover, only sketches of what may be more complicated realities, with single individuals given credit for multiple roles and multiple individuals given credit for the same role. As previously mentioned, these complexities affect the structure of the database. They must also be taken into account in analyzing and interpreting the networks and subnetworks explored in this study?\ and they are just the beginning.
  Much of the inspiration for the analysis offered in this study comes from Maki Jun, ed. (2006) Hitotsu ue no chiimu (Better Teams), a collection of essays in which nineteen of Japan’s most successful advertising creatives reflect on how team members work together to create great advertising. Maki, who was until his untimely death in 2009, one of Japan’s most famous copywriters, leads off with three introductions.
  In the first he suggests that while there is no end of analyses of how organizations work, most have been focused on one of two topics: leaders or human resources. Most have assumed a military model, with the focus on the successful general or CEO’s personality and strategic thinking or, alternatively, on the recruitment, training and use of the troops or employees under his command. The latter are assumed to be interchangeable. Teams, however, don’t fit these models. Maki observes that in Japanese the English word “team” can be read te-amu (literally “to knit”). At the end of this introduction, he invites the reader to imagine a baseball player holding a bat. His ten fingers are knit together. Each has its own function. If properly positioned, they can, together, hit a home run.
  In his second introduction, Maki engages in another bit of wordplay, suggesting the substitution of koshiki (a group of individuals) for the usual soshiki (total/solidary group) used to talk about organizations. Here he shifts his focus from the team as a collection of individuals with different skill sets to the team as a set of personalities, individuals who bring not only skills but their own ideas and feelings to the group.
  That sets the stage for the third introduction, which addresses an issue well known to everyone who works in advertising. Teams are arenas where personalities clash. If they don’t, the work is likely to be dull. If the fighting becomes too bitter, the work may not get done. The art of the team leader is to manage this tension and exploit it.


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