The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

What Is It With Japanese Ad Agencies And Their Philosophies?
March 17, 2009, 7:26 am
Filed under: Comment

Remember a couple of weeks ago I wrote about Hakuhodo’s amazing ‘Big Colon’ brand philosophy?

I think we all came to the agreement it was a bit of turd …

Well in the ever-competitive marketplace of Japan, the dominating force of the market, DENTSU, obviously felt that if one of their competitors had spent money promoting their pointless new philosophy, they’d better do something similar pretty damn quick.

So they collared a bunch of planners, creatives, designers and managers and locked them in a room till they came out with something errrrrrrm …. that’s it … they kept them there till they came out with something.

And what ‘magic’ did these genius’ of communication come up with?

This …


To be fair, it’s a vast improvement on Hakuhodo’s but it’s hardly inspiring is it?

I mean, GOOD Innovation … GOOD … it’s abit like saying you’re pleasant.

Thing is, I can overlook that because ‘good innovation’ is – in my mind – what iPOD was and what PS3 is … technological marvels that stem from much simpler, but-no-less-impressive-for-the-time, innovations.

The problem I have with this whole thing is something entirely different.

1/ Anyone who knows DENTSU in Japan know they basically own the media. The traditional media. So in the majority of cases, they’re going to always push a traditional approach to media because it’s earns them a bloody fortune – probably more than their clients pay in fees … so the most innovative thing they’ve ever done is probably some banner ad on the internet.

2/ If ‘good innovation’ is their philosophy, why did they repeat it 4 times on their ad, making it increasingly ridiculous.

Don’t get me wrong, the graphical element is all well and good, but what the fuck is it supposed to mean?

Are they saying the symbols that replace certain letters are representative of ‘good innovation’?

Is an elephant basically dog 2.0?

What about a baby? Is that a ‘good innovation’ on sperm?

I love Japan – I love it’s madness and colour – and yet in a corporate setting, it is unbelievably conservative and more obsessed with perfection than innovation which is why I can’t help but feel this is another example of a company more focused on words rather than action and as I’ve said for years, we’re in the communication age of ‘doing’, not saying … so for all intents and purposes this is nothing more than the byproduct of a corporations ego than a genuine desire to change and move forward.

Brand philosophy is very important – however if it doesn’t manifest itself in everything you do, then it’s nothing more than a marketing slogan – and whilst some brands might fall for that, the brands that make a real difference [and want their agencies to be part of that change], don’t.

27 Comments so far
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so did yesterdays lack of interest push you to write something half decent? fucking seems like that so i suggest we all veto this place and in a few months you might actually end up writing something that people find interesting and enjoyable. truth hurts but thats what friends are for

Comment by andy@cynic

Maybe “action not words” got lost in translation in Japan so they follow the “pictures not action” mantra. 🙂

Comment by Pete

Or “a picture paints a thousand bland mission statement philosophies”?

Comment by Pete

that looks like it was done in ten minutes. and what do those clip art images stand for? don t think they are client s products or something else with a meaning for dentsu?.. i totally agree that if a philosophy does not manifest itself in everything the brand does, it s pointless – like this piece of paper about the theory of evolution… i m probably going to hell any time soon, if you will write more of these brand philosophy related posts…

Comment by peggy

It’s shit Rob. Why don’t you just say it’s shit.

Comment by Billy Whizz

It’s shit. Happy now Billy?

Comment by Rob

Does anyone else see the irony of promoting good innovation using a print ad?

Comment by Lee Hill

Just wait for Asatsu to rise above its Japanese peers by announcing its Innovative Colon philosophy. Also in a print ad.

Comment by fredrik sarnblad

Freddie’s back … about bloody time too!

Excellent point Lee which is why cynic won’t be running a full page ad to launch our new “.” philosophy – representing how we are the best in adland, fullstop.

Do you like it? Landor did it for us.

Comment by Rob

is it bad that the first thing i see when i read that is ‘gin’? it seems like it’s a very good ad for getting shitfaced on a G&T. not such a good ad for.. well, whatever it’s advertising.

Comment by lauren


ps- great point Lee

Comment by Bazza

Now now.
I know you have a past with Sony, but calling PS3 a technological marvel is a bit like referring to the C5 as such.

As for the Good Innovation, I don’t think there are many agencies out there striving for bad innovation. Sounds like a desperate ‘we need something quick’ fix.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

The problem Mr M is that too many agencies aren’t stiviing for any innovation whatsoever …

Comment by Rob

Indeed. But even then, any agency could say “Good Innovation” just as they all say “Creatively led”. But only a few will be.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Yep … which goes back to my “brands who show it are more highly regarded than brands who just say it”

Comment by Rob

Is the planning assignment coming out this week?

Comment by Matt Fielding

Wed Matt

Comment by Rob Mortimer

the guy asked when the fucking assignment was on mortimer he didnt want advice to get married to some gay bloke also called matt

Comment by andy@cynic

Sorry Andy, I forgot you were scarred by that word.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

very fucking droll. but very fucking true as well.

Comment by andy@cynic

Yep. You did invite it…

Comment by Rob Mortimer

They don’t decide what’s good, the customers do. End of lesson.

Comment by John Dodds

And the inference one can draw from this masterwork is that their previous philosophy did not feature good innovation. When you claim to change, you have to realise that you’re inevitably going to draw attention to what you did before and raise doubts about your credibility.

This may be unpopular amongst those who make advertisements, but a good rule of life is to notice what people do rather than what they say.

Comment by John Dodds

When you proclaim change, you inevitably draw some attention to what you did before and that may be problematic. Note what people do rather than what they say – a good rule for life, even if it might be a little threatening to the advertising business.

Comment by John

It’s St Patrick’s Day in New York, why am I wasting my time trying to get this comment system to work properly? No one reads this thing anyway.

Comment by John

dodds makes more sense when hes pissed doesnt he

Comment by andy@cynic

I like the fact that this ad for dentsu is basically saying “GIN” in the end. Another one leaving “TITS” and “MEAT” and I might consider applying there.

Comment by Seb

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