Shun Matsuzaka is moving from Tokyo to McCann Worldgroup’s Kuala Lumpur office to work as digital creative director. He has worked as a creative planner for the past four years, but is best known for his work in developing an AI ‘creative director’, which debuted last year. Most recently, he played a lead role in the development of ‘CRE-P’, a robot designed to enhance creativity by helping people to meditate. Matsuzaka recently showcased the product at the AI Expo in Tokyo.
In Kuala Lumper, he will also lead McCann Next, which is the regional extension of McCann Millennials, a voluntary group he founded in Japan to foster innovation among younger staff at the agency. Sean Sim, CEO of McCann in Malaysia, described him as “one of the bright young stars in our regional network”.
Matsuzaka is a relative rarity among Japanese advertising creatives in choosing to work in Southeast Asia. He said he volunteered for the role out of a desire to learn more about the region and in particular about Muslim culture and Muslim millennials. In addition to a personal interest in the subject, he said Muslim consumers represent an important opportunity for Japanese brands. He said specialising in that consumer segment would help give him a unique positioning as a Japanese creative director. “Most Japanese people don’t understand what it is to be a Muslim,” he said. “They only know what they see on the news.”
He said he is also keen to promote open innovation at McCann through growing the McCann Millennials network. He said the name change to ‘McCann Next’ was due to negative associations around the word ‘millennial’ in certain markets. But he noted the ethos of developing innovative projects not necessarily related to advertising with colleagues and external peers would remain the same.
Matsuzaka hopes that more young Japanese advertising professionals will want to experience working outside Japan. He expects the number of expatriates in Southeast Asia to grow over the next five to 10 years. “There will still be opportunities in Japan after the Olympics, but there will be more in Southeast Asia,” he said. While Japanese still tend to see moving abroad as daunting, he said Japan has more in common with Southeast Asia culturally than people might think. He added that Malaysia’s ‘Look East’ policy of trying to learn from advanced Asian markets like Japan was encouraging.
As a proponent of open innovation, Matsuzaka sees a need for Japanese companies to think more internationally when it comes to product development and marketing. He said that he worked to ensure the CRE-P project took shape as a product designed for a global audience, not only for a Japanese one. “We have to look outside,” he said, adding that thinking globally from the outset rather than adapting “makes a really big difference” to a product’s—and brand’s—chances of success.