David Blecken
Oct 13, 2017

What ails Japanese advertising, according to McCann's new country leader

More emphasis on core concepts, more international perspective and more willingness to experiment could help Japan in the long-term, says Hiroaki Mori.

Hiroaki Mori
Hiroaki Mori

McCann recently appointed Hiroaki Mori as president and CEO for Japan. While Mori began his career at one of Japan's biggest institutions—Hakuhodo—he has lived and worked in a number of international markets and believes in the value of different perspectives. Here, he discusses how a more open-minded approach could contribute to the future of Japanese advertising. (Responses have been edited and condensed for clarity.)

Why did you move to McCann?

There are a couple of reasons why. I wanted to see a place I’ve never seen. I think I can do something new. I only have about another 10 years before retirement, and I thought whatever I do with those 10 years should include new things and those things must be fun.

You have spent much of your career in outside Japan. Could more Japanese advertising executives benefit from living and working abroad?

Yes, they could. We are number one in some areas, but not in others. We need to realise this and then work out how to fill the gap. Living in only one country and working at only one agency means you cannot see the differences [between your own culture and others]. I don’t want to be American or British, but I want to use a different point of view to enhance my strengths. A lot of people want to change in this market [Japan]. I like the term ‘change the rules’. I don’t want to be a rule breaker or a terrorist, but I want to change the rules we have to follow.

What specifically can Japan learn from other markets?

For us, execution comes first. We have a lot of quality craft. But we should learn the importance of ideas. Japanese advertising is behind in terms of strong concepts. The number of people who are aware of this is very limited. Once we start to put emphasis on the importance of the core concept, it can be the springboard [to better work].

How can people come around to this way of thinking?

Don’t just follow trends. People are still looking for something new from the western world. That’s OK but we should open our eyes to the fundamentals. Why can footballers play overseas? Because they’ve mastered the fundamentals. In Japan, there are people who speak English fluently, but even if they use the same terminology [as in English], they might be talking about other things.

People in Japan tend to place more value on advertising practices in the west than in markets closer to home. What lessons can Asia offer?

In China, for example, it’s all about speed, size and scale. It’s a totally different mindset. They don’t care about failing. Someone might open a small restaurant, test it out, then it’s gone. Then they change the concept and open another one. That’s the mindset.

Thai creative work was at one time very edgy. We could still learn from that, but we’ve totally forgotten about it. A lot of Japanese companies are struggling because they’re not willing to be diverse. We don’t like argument, but sometimes arguments are required.

When you joined McCann, you said having a presence in Osaka showed commitment to the market. Everyone always talks about Tokyo, but how can Osaka have a bigger presence in this industry?

Tokyo people and Osaka people are different. We want to enhance this uniqueness. Melbourne and Sydney for example compete against each other but respect each other. Some people don’t want to move—they just want to stay in their hometown. Why not work together? All offices come from the same bread. If McCann in Osaka can create a nice bread shop, it will make [the rest of the network] richer.

Campaign Japan

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