Creativity in Japan

Two years ago I didn't know a thing about creativity in Japan. Asian advertising was something I'd watch on YouTube to be left wondering what randomness I just witnessed. This all changed on a Sunday afternoon in Stockholm when I stumbled across an online lecture from Naoki Ito in November 2009.

At that time I was studying at Hyper Island and considered myself up to date with all things interactive online. Yet I realized that I never saw the work from this video before and it struck me that there's much more to Japan than I thought. This lecture planted a seed in my head to explore Japan to get a perspective of creative advertising beyond the western part of the world. Months later Naoki Ito became the Executive Creative Director of Wieden+Kennedy Tokyo and I was lucky enough to be invited to their Tokyo office for an internship with my creative partner. During this internship and the following employment I had the chance to work daily with Naoki and learned a great deal from him. Communication wasn't always easy but he helped shaping a perspective on what makes Japanese creativity different from the rest of the world:

While Japans culture has a big desire for the always new and quirky their art in all forms is very conceptual and has many layers of meaning. Their everyday is cluttered with commercial messages and it's the toughest place on earth to stand out. That's why communication has to be as different as possible from usual advertising and at the same time it has to be meaningful and be able to become part of culture and influence it. This makes Japan a country where the bar for great creative work is higher than anywhere else.

I imagine that's one of the reasons why five of the most talented Japanese creatives joined forces to start up PARTY, a creative lab. The lineup: Naoki Ito, Morihiro Harano, Qanta Shimizu, Hiroki Nakamura and Masashi Kawamura. In just a few months they created work like the Toyota Backseat Driver and two music videos for androp: Bright Siren and Bell. It's an impressive indication for the things to come and I believe their approach to technology, collaboration and storytelling will lead to a new breed of creative work that will show the world the true potential of Japanese creativity.

Nike VS. the people

This is awesome. First the back story summarized: Lebron James, currently one of the best basketball players of the NBA has left his team Cleveland for exchange in Miami to get a better opportunity at winning the Playoffs. He was greatly criticized for this move, and it was seen as betrayal, especially from the Cleveland crowd. At the same time Lebron is one of the key athletes of NIKE so they released a great ad about him:

It's quite a statement. Similar to what NIKE did with Tiger Woods. Now it seemed to gain traction in culture as even South Park used this format just a week after the commercial aired. But earlier this month the best response was release – by the people of Cleveland:

It's a direct response to NIKE and turns their message around. Both videos have almost the same view count on Youtube. In my eyes it's a pinnacle of brand interaction in social media. It's not just a funny spoof with subtitles or a different voice over – it's a passionate and well produced answer by the people.

As an advertising creative, imagine having your ad commented on by the target audience and uploaded back to YouTube. But you'd have to say something people would care for in the first place.

The Tomorrow Awards

The guys behind and Portfolio night released their new project yesterday: The Tomorrow Awards. It's the first award show of its kind that has no categories – it will be all about the best ideas independent from their media platform. The other twist is that the shortlist will be crowd-sourced by the industry, everyone can register as a judge and help choosing work which will the be presented to the 'Monster Judges'. This team consists of jury chief Rei Inamoto, chief creative officer, AKQA, Mark Chalmers, partner and creative director of Perfect Fools, Colleen DeCourcy, chief digital officer, TBWA Worldwide, New York, Naoki Ito, executive creative director, Wieden+Kennedy, Tokyo, Sergio Mugnaini, interactive creative director at ALMAP BBDO Brazil and Robert Wong, executive creative director at Google Creative Labs.

For me, this sounds very exciting. I worked as a graphic designer in Germany, I learned about traditional advertising on internships and freelance gigs in creative agencies in London and now I'm almost finished with my postgraduate course in Interactive Art Direction at Hyper Island in Sweden – and I don't want to be in any of these boxes. I see myself as a creative working with strategic concepts, choosing the media depending on relevance and with the purpose of telling a story in the best way possible.

The Tomorrow Awards are doing a great step of defying unnecessary boundaries and categories. Let's help them celebrating the future of advertising and stop putting ideas into boxes.

Where the creative things are

Last week we discovered a new way of researching (stalking) ad agencies that we like – by checking up on their office via Google street view. It's a bit of fun and gives you a glimpse into the area they are located in and how different their buildings are. Below are some of the offices we found:

Droga5 in New York

Wieden+Kennedy in Portland

Anomaly in New York

If you should find any other creative offices around the world with Streetview, please share with us.


Remember my former partner Kristin? She's the one I started this blog with three years ago. She's still doing awesome things in London and just started a new project with her creative partner Nora: Überbuli

It's a duo of a crazy German and an even crazier Hungarian hunting for creative projects in advertising by doing all sorts of things to initiate that. They've got some work up over at carbonmade you might be interested in. They're planning more things in the near future – so stay tuned and join their twitter fellowship if you're curious about the adventures of those girls @uberbuli

The great masters of advertising

Last thursday we went to the NABS talk at the London College of Fashion. It was all about TV advertising. The talk was moderated by Sir Hegarty and the panel consisted of Tony Davidson of W+K, Ben Priest of Adam&Eve, Nick Gill of BBH and film director Danniel Kleinman. What a great lineup! They've all chosen three ads each and I enjoyed watching all of those oldies and gems on the big screen.

Some of the things they've said stuck with me, one of them was that television is a shared media, people watch it together and talk about what they've seen. They also shared insights about the craft, like the importance of characters in a piece of film, sometimes over the plot. The right choice of music being crucial and of course they discussed the current question of 'Is Tv dead?'.

The answer in my opinion is simple, it's film what's important and impactful, no matter on what screen it appears on. And clearly, no matter the media, it's all about the story being told, right?

Erik & Philippe interview

I'm a bit late on this, but published their interview with Erik and Philippe here. I admire their optimism towards the industry, these guys love what they do. If you want to be a great creative, it can be simple, it is all about hard work and staying yourself, staying unique. Many times this had been said, but it's good to hear it again. I'm off to town now, we're meeting at NABS today to do some work and contact people.

Erik & Philippe

You know right? They brought us things like Portfolio night and lots of great articles. Continuing the awesomeness they are going to get Erik Vervroegen (former ECD of TBWA/Paris) and Philippe Meunier (co-founder of Sid Lee) in front of a camera for ihaveanidea's first video interview.

O' course they are smart boys and girls and have thought of lots of clever and interesting questions in order to squeeze some advertising wisdom out of those two stars. However they are still giving everyone a chance to quiz these masters – especially as most of the readers of ihaveanidea are North Americans, we shall see what London's creative crowd is curious about. Send your questions to Brett ( subject: Erik & Philippe) or leave a comment before Monday the 26th of January. State your name and location if you wanna be credited in the video.

Here are some of my favourite print ads done under Erik V.

Creative Sensei

It seems like young creatives cannot afford to be picky about their first job nowadays. Yet we shall all have ideas where we'd like to work – and there are a lot of ways how to make that choice. I imagine many a creative is attracted by the glamorous name and the reputation of an ad shop and chooses the place they apply to by the name above the door. So were we. When we started out, we admired the coolest ones, always checking Campaign's new business charts, the award annuals and of course the recent work.

After some placements you realize that there's much more to it. Now there is one main criteria we're looking for in order judge whether a place is for us or not: a creative (director, or team) we can learn from. I think that's the critical point when you start out in this business, to find someone who can act as a mentor and help you moulding your potential and make you a better advertiser. A creative whose opinion you can absolutely trust and seek out if needed. Not someone who solves your problems, but rather helps to find the solution yourself. Finding such a person is not as easy as it seems and once you find that mentor, showing them enthusiasm and hunger is the real challenge.

When we look at an agency, we do not care about the name above the door. It is a only an indicator for where the great people are. We care more about the one person that can teach us to reach the next level – a creative sensei. Scamp and Dave Trott are great examples for this breed of advertiser. We're interested in your thoughts. Do you know more creatives like that? Or have you found your sensei already?

James & James hired

Sweet, our good friends James and James just got hired yesterday on their first advertising job. We've been sharing experience with those guys for ages, and after two year of placements they made it. So here's a happy happy from us – do well guys, we're sure you will.

We'll try to catch up that and get ourselves a job in the new year as well :)

Please Feed the Animals

Times are rough, the economy's bad. First hand experienced by a senior copywriter from across the pond. Eric lost his job a few weeks ago, and started a blog for newly unemployed advertising people - Please Feed the Animals. I think it's a good read as it's not that different from getting your first job in advertising. Every little helps, right?

Le Publivores

Last week we went to The Night of the Ad Eaters. 6 hours of ads in a cinema with entertainment in between. We didn't stand the whole night, we might have, but at times the ad selection was way to random.

We reckon the IPA just used the french real, as for 20 minutes they had ads running with Paris as a location – zero idea and zero fun, mostly. Now if that would have been London it might have been more appealing right? Overall it was a good night, there were some pretty wicked ads that were fun to watch on the big screen with a non forgiving crowd that applauded the good stuff. Have a look at some of the spots that stood out, they are nicely assembled by Seventy Seven. Thanks for saying hi, Luke & Co. I think I also spotted Mike&Phil in the crowds?

The Bill, and The Chris.

Jai Wal

Delicious ads for dinner

Watching ads all night sounds fun right? RIGHT? Right.

That's why on the 16th of October we're heading to the Bloomsbury Theatre to the Night of the AdEaters. It features more than 350 films of the best Russian, Asian, African, South American and UK advertising spots. They like to call it 'advertainment' and source the spots from the worlds only library dedicated to TV and cinema commercials – the 'Jean Marie Boursicot Cinématheque'. Check out for all details and come along if you like. Bon Appetit!