David Blecken
Jun 2, 2015

BBDO restructures in Japan, imports Tony Harris

TOKYO - BBDO has restructured in Japan to bring its operations more in line with the rest of the network, appointing Tony Harris, formerly of BBDO Guerrero, as chief executive of BBDO Japan, a newly created division.

Tony Harris: plans to approach new market with an open mind
Tony Harris: plans to approach new market with an open mind

The agency will consist of three entities under I&S BBDO Group: I&S BBDO, BBDO J West and BBDO Japan.

BBDO Japan, which incorporates Proximity Japan, will manage BBDO’s global accounts and connect Japanese clients to the network’s global resources. As chief executive, Harris will report to I&S BBDO Group president Kazutoyo Kato, and Chris Thomas, chairman of the group and chief executive of the Americas. Francine Kahn-Gonzalez, who is currently managing director of BBDO Guerrero, will replace Harris in Manila.

I&S BBDO will service domestic Japanese clients, while J West, which is based in Kyushu, will be responsible for clients in western Japan.

In a statement, Chris Thomas, the New York-based chairman of I&S BBDO Group, said the new structure would “strengthen our ability to service global businesses and to handle creative platforms brought in from around the world”.

Kato added in the statement that “we are very deliberately setting out to create a variety of working models for our clients that will more usefully reflect their requirements”.

Harris is still in Manila, where he has spent the past four years as chief executive of the creatively acclaimed BBDO Guerrero. He will relocate to Tokyo towards the end of June. In a telephone interview, Harris pointed to a desire to create consistency for international clients in Japan and make it easier for them to tap into resources across the company globally.

He noted that the Japan operation was structured “on its own lines” and that BBDO was seeking an organisational structure “more in line with the rest of the network”.

Harris said he would not approach his new role in Tokyo with fixed ideas. “Many foreigners [in the advertising industry] have gone to Japan and crashed quite publicly,” he noted. “I’ve got to hope that I’m one who doesn’t do that.”

He said cultural sensitivity was important in any position as a “guest” in a foreign country. “When I went to Manila, I spent the first three months talking to everyone in the agency and all clients and I’m going to do much the same here,” he said.

“I’m not intending to go up [to Tokyo] wielding anything at all. I’m going to listen and then work out how we’re going to tackle the issues. I don’t know what they’re going to be—some things will be brilliant and some things will need to be fixed, and fresh eyes can help do that.”

International clients in Japan include Mars, Johnson & Johnson, Visa, Starbucks and New Balance.

Under Harris and chief creative officer David Guerrerro, BBDO Guerrero was named Campaign’s creative agency of the year in the Philippines. Before working in Asia, Harris served as deputy chairman of RKCY/Y&R in London.

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