The office will be run by Marc Wesseling and Jean-Francois Thery.
Wesseling, a Dutchman, co-founded USN in Tokyo with Michael Sheetal in 2007. He now serves as director alongside Tomokazu Murakami, who joined in 2008.
USN bills itself as “a global creative sweatshop born and raised in Harajuku”. It is a respected digital agency in Japan, where foreign and independent agencies face a notoriously stiff challenge from domestic giants.
Wesseling will split his time between Tokyo and Singapore.
Thery, a Singaporean, will serve as brand and strategy lead. He has a master’s degree in digital media management from Hyper Island and has worked at agencies such as Cheil and BBH.
Wesseling said USN would seek to grow the team over the coming months “with young up-and-coming creatives that want to push the creative boundaries”. He said the agency aim to have a staff of four or five by the end of the year, but that it would also work with freelancers and promote an exchange of staff between Tokyo and Singapore to “keep fresh”.
He was unable to state which clients USN will initially work with in Singapore due to non-disclosure agreements. Wesseling said USN was “working closely with a few partners on the first campaigns, which we will reveal in mid-June”.
Clients in Tokyo include Heineken, Red Bull, Asics, Nike and Mini. Wesseling said opening an office in Southeast Asia was a “logical step”. He said the office would look to work with a combination of international and Japanese companies, but that Japanese companies would be a “key focus”. He said he saw “huge potential” to help Japanese brands expand their business in Asia.
Outlining USN’s positioning in Singapore, Thery said he thought a lot of the creative work produced in Southeast Asia was “still very traditional”.
“Technology is a white elephant in a lot of places,” Thery said. “Very few people have successfully merged technology and creativity.”
Wesseling said the agency would be selective in the work it takes on, look to work with young companies and startups, and make a point of avoiding taking on work “just to cover the overheads”.
“The reason I’m in advertising is to make fun and beautiful communications,” he said. “A lot of agencies end up taking on mindless retainer work and before you know it, the life is sucked out of you. We’re not going to be like a banner factory or production company. You don’t go to McKinsey to make expense reports, for example.”
He cited Party, which has offices in Tokyo and New York, as an agency he was “jealous” of for its high creative standards and having “raised the bar” in Japan.
USN has ambitions to open more offices around the world and Wesseling listed Jakarta, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Amsterdam and London as potential cities for further expansion.