Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
Sep 28, 2014

Is Japan so exotic it cannot be understood? Hakuhodo decodes

SPIKES ASIA - Have you struggled to understand why Japan has produced so many world-renowned campaigns? Yoshi Matsuura, holding a dual role as senior strategic planning director at TBWA Hakuhodo and senior R&D director at Hakuhodo, revealed the secrets of Japanese creativity.

Yoshi Matsuura
Yoshi Matsuura

Please see all of our Spikes Asia 2014 coverage here

During a Friday afternoon seminar at Spikes Asia 2014, Matsuura broke down Japanese creativity in a way anyone anywhere could access and put into practice. Under the premise that advertising is a mirror of a country’s culture, he presented two typical but disparate styles of advertising from his native Japan.

He cited a typical Japanese ad by Suntory's Iyemon green tea: Beautiful, high-context, traditional, featuring a quiet tenacity and dedication to artisan perfection. Simple but powerful. The Iyemon ad reflects the culture of zen, Matsuura said. Zen is the neverending pursuit of simplicity.

Another typical Japanese ad by Nissin had the following descriptors, according to Matsuura: Chaotic witth Samurais swinging glowing swards around and juxtapositions of manga scenes with reality. It is animated and free-falling.

Typical Japanese ads have dual personalities that are rooted in the cultural dynamics of zen and anime, said Matsuura. However the real strength of Japanese creativity comes not only from these two elements, but also from the unique fusion of the two opposite cultures. "Strong creativity always creates harmony out of dissonance," he said. "That's when simplicity meets chaos, when discipline meets freewheeling," he said.

Still baffled? Matsuura offered three methodologies to merge zen and anime, urging those in the audience to believe that by focusing on the "ambivalence in your local culture", you could do it too.


Geekalisation: Eccentric or excessive enthusiasm that leaves a very strong impression.

Case: Uniqlo's 'Uniqlock' campaign


Case: Inakadate Village's 'Rice Code' campaign


Pixelisation: Fusing analog tradition and cutting-edge technology

Case: Mori Building's 'Tokyo City Symphony' campaign


Case: Suntory Whisky's '3D On The Rocks' campaign


Case: Hibiki's 'Harmony Bar Experience' campaign


Kidzalisation: Reinventing brands to give consumers a new opportunity to 'grow up' again

Case: Kirin's 'Photogenic Beer' campaign


Case: Super Mario Mercedes-Benz commercial


Case: Yahoo Japan's 'Hands On' search engine


While the presentation focused on Japan, Matsuura had advice for creatives across the region. In summary, he said it would be a mistake to think that combining polarised cultural elements can only work in Japan. If more markets were to take this approach, they would end up with more distinctive work representative of their markets, he suggested.

Campaign's observation: Geekalisation, pixelisation, kidzalisation. We love it. We love how Matsuura, in perfect and melodious English, deconstructs Japanese creative trends into basic conceptual compositions that does not apply just inside Japan but can be practised around the world in any culture (as long as you get it). We nod our heads in inspiration.


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