The second annual Advertising Week Asia got underway Tuesday in Tokyo. Continuing last year’s tradition, here are some observations that we liked—or that at least caught our attention—during the second day of the conference Wednesday (see our five highlights from day one here).
The ability to deliver “unexpectedness” is the reason advertising agencies still exist, according to Chuck Porter, chairman of Crispin Porter + Bogusky. Porter’s session was also a much-needed reminder of the joy of humorous advertising. Work he cited (not all of it recent) included the ‘Chav Tranquilizer’, Mini’s ‘Counterfeit’ and Burger King’s ‘Nascar Chicken Fries’. As often as ad agency people tell us that advertising is supposed to be fun and that they are uniquely placed to deliver it, relatively few examples these days support that claim, but these definitely did. “I just like the work,” Porter said in response to a question as to what he gets out of advertising. “I like seeing young talent and making great work. It’s a dumb answer, but it’s the best I can do.”
Marketing can be a company’s sensor. Isobar CEO Jean Lin suggested organisations should look to marketing to inform their activities, given its proximity to consumers. She spoke of the need for customer experience to be “frictionless”, but warned against being purely pragmatic. There is still a role for “old time” communications, she said. “We need to remove the barriers for customers to engage with the business and brand,” she said. “But people make irrational decisions. It’s not only the rational part that matters. You have to combine it with inspiring stories. That’s the only way a brand building journey can be successful.”
First ask why. Appearing for a second time this week, Rei Inamoto noted that marketers increasingly go through their work in a state of confusion, bouncing between consultancies, design companies and finally agencies. One problem especially prevalent in Japan, he said, is that they tend to start new projects by asking “how”. Instead, they should ask themselves why they are doing something. Assuming it’s still worthwhile, they should then ask who they need to target; what they are going to do; and finally how they are going to do it. Following that order is the only way to achieve clarity, he said.
Boil new ideas down and test them. Jim Moffatt, regional head of R/GA, which just opened in Tokyo, said clients are prone to requesting “something completely different”, only to get cold feet and ask for historical evidence that it’s worked. Any new initiative requires some appetite for risk. But the best way to move forward, Moffatt said, is to start with a big plan, then “boil it down to its simplest form so you can test it”. Only by dispensing with the idea that everything has to be perfect the first time round can innovation happen. He added that while the goal should always be to do things better, people shouldn’t be afraid to steal good ideas. “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel all the time,” he said.
TV is... the same as always, really. The day ended with an oddly old-school session featuring Daisuke Otobe, a corporate officer of Shiseido, and two representatives from Digital Intelligence, a Japanese digital marketing consultancy. Panelists noted that marketers are looking at TV with renewed interest due to concerns around brand safety online, and the safe space that TV offers. At the same time, they said, TV still offers no sound way of knowing who is watching an ad, or whether they have the slightest interest in it. The discussion didn’t reach any tangible conclusion as to where to allocate budgets, but suggested that the average marketer is quite lost. TV still dominates in terms of spending in Japan, but by far the most interesting work is happening online. From our perspective, marketers investing in TV should a) be aware they are speaking to a mature audience and tailor their work accordingly and b) learn from online efforts and make the work more entertaining and less generic. “Mature” doesn’t mean “dull”.