David Blecken
Jun 30, 2015

ADK envisions a brave new crowdsourced future for Japanese brands

TOKYO - Earlier this month, Campaign reported ADK’s launch of Sticki, a collaborative content creation unit the agency hopes will come to span the globe. We then spoke to Sticki’s director, Masaya Haraguchi, at ADK’s headquarters about his ambitions to take video and co-creation to a new level for Japanese brands.

Masaya Haraguchi, crowdsourcing evangelist
Masaya Haraguchi, crowdsourcing evangelist

In addition to leading Sticki, Haraguchi is director of ADK’s digital and data insight centre, and a pioneer of crowdsourced content development on behalf of brands in Japan. He says he initiated ADK’s partnership with eYeka in 2011 after reading an article in Campaign, which led him to see the potential for more innovative marketing solutions through working with the company.

Haraguchi readily admits that the alliance initially struck fear into the hearts of some in ADK’s creative ranks. People feared for their jobs in an agency that, like Japan’s other two major networks Dentsu and Hakuhodo, is heavily dependent on TV as a source of revenue. But he was not deterred.

“I found that big global companies like P&G, Unilever, Nestlé and Coca-Cola continually use crowdsourced video, so [it occurred to me that] without embracing it, agencies will not be able to survive into the near future,” he says. “That’s why we decided to build an alliance with eYeka.”

While not yet confirmed, eYeka is also expected to become an active part of the Sticki network. Haraguchi says things have definitely progressed since he set things in motion, with people on both agency and client side becoming more accepting of video marketing and social media as a whole—an encouraging development, late as it might seem.

What's in it for me?

Haraguchi is best described as a crowdsourcing evangelist. When speaking to a client about a new project, he says he always makes a point of selling the benefits of working with eYeka—and they are considerable. A typical contest calling for responses to a client brief reaches 300,000 people across 170 countries, ranging from students to professional film directors. The cost falls on the participants, until three winners are selected, to whom the client pays a fee for IP rights. The client is also free to use content produced by non-winners for up to a year after the contest. “A lot of procurement people endorse me to marketers,” Haraguchi says.

In addition to gaining actual content, clients and the agency stand to gain real insight into what everyday people think of their brands. The creators are consumers themselves who “don’t understand strategy, or the client’s ego, or care about the company’s business,” Haraguchi says. “They are eager to create something in their own way. To meet consumer’s needs, we have to stand equal to consumers, not be top-down but flat.”

Of course, there are clear benefits for the creators too, even if they are not among the top three selected at the end of the process. “For creative people from Jakarta to a small village in India, this is a way to connect with big brands,” he says. “They get the chance to make the next step for their future.”

Haraguchi says he has noticed positive change in the way Japanese companies approach video over the past two years. People started to become interested in YouTube stars, having seen them in action overseas. But while aligning with individual free spirits was appealing, there was confusion as to how to do it safely. “In the beginning, people approached YouTube like a TV commercial,” he recalls. “Of course, it didn’t work. They were able to buy views, but not get engagement. View numbers are a simple KPI but they don’t lead to clear [outcomes], so they needed another KPI: engagement.”

Back to school

Real change doesn’t happen overnight though, and challenges persist. Haraguchi says relatively few domestic companies feel confident enough to put social media at the core of their marketing, and most remain scared of communicating directly with their consumers. To help change their approach and build momentum, Haraguchi has made a point of starting at the top by converting the likes of Toyota and Panasonic to experimenting with crowdsourced content. Initially, he says, they were unconvinced by case studies from companies like Unilever and P&G. “We are different” tended to be the common refrain, and Toyota, as the first major Japanese company to try working with eYeka in 2012, got off to a shaky start due to what Haraguchi describes as mismatched expectations.

Nonetheless, driven by the realisation that a large proportion of their target audiences no longer watch a great deal of TV, Panasonic, Kao and Kirin took the plunge last year, with more promising results.

These were followed by the smaller Nittoh Tea, which used eYeka to help refresh the brand image of its Daily Club product.

As one of the first in Japan to commit to experimenting in this space, it is clearly in ADK’s interests for crowdscourced content development to take off. Indeed, Haraguchi sees it as an opportunity to reposition for the future as competitors continue to focus on the “mass marketing model” while failing to notice the change in the air for clients. For Haraguchi, Sticki is (or will be) an ecosystem that can help ADK stay ahead of the game. The focus of the network will be video but more broadly, it will aim to develop marketing innovation, he says.

“If we stick to internal business development, we cannot innovate our business model,” he says. “In this environment [which prioritises speed, technology and globalisation], we need to be humble, learn from others, and respect the people and companies with skills and knowledge that we don’t have. Through respect and mutual understanding, we can create an ecosystem and establish capable companies globally.

Real business

At the same time, Haraguchi is critical of the trend for agencies to form alliances with startups as he says strategic alliances often fail to translate into real business outcomes. “The most important thing is to make money together,” he says. “Actual business is everything in digital business. A client recently said to me they need pragmatic advice from a point of actual experience. That’s why we want to accumulate relationships with startup companies based on real business.

Haraguchi is in ongoing discussions with potential network members. Not all are ready to dive into the Japanese market, he notes, while others see its potential to work for their own business. ADK’s role is something of a cross between a fixer and a matchmaker.

“Most [foreign] startups cannot enter the Japanese market by themselves. At the same time, Japanese companies are not sure how to catch up with the global trend of digitisation. We can translate the startup company’s vision and at the same time explain about the Japanese company’s business model.”

Another key requirement for video marketing to grow in Japan, says Haraguchi, is the establishment of a measurement model, which he plans to undertake with Sticki’s launch.

“All clients are struggling to establish KPIs [for video],” he says. “But I believe engagement can function as a key measurement for business. The important point is to identify how engagement works for business through experience.”

Seeing results, he says, could encourage Japanese companies to set aside a percentage of their budget for experimentation—something that is not yet common. “My role is to propose proper investment; to help the client use part of their budget properly for a new challenge. Most Japanese companies are scared by new things. But if I explain my experiences to them, they are relieved.”

This article is part of the Campaign Innovate series, a collection of articles that examine the way innovation, startups and technology are affecting the advertising and marketing industry.

Campaign Asia-Pacific has also launched the Campaign Innovate competition, an event that aims to provide a platform for Asia-Pacific's startups to pitch to some of the world's biggest brands. 


Campaign Asia

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