campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 09 July 2010 12:00AM
It's been ten years since Dentsu started presenting its Asian Diversity seminar at the Cannes advertising festival, and as the executive advisor and global executive creative advisor, Akira Kagami, noted in his opening address: "People's perception of Asian creative has changed a lot since then. People have realised it's not so small."
To mark its anniversary, Asia's advertising powerhouse decided to focus on innovations emanating from its self-confessed spiritual home, Tokyo.
"Tokyo has many, many faces," Kagami says. "It is a breeding ground for innovation and the birthplace of new technologies."
From gadgets to anime, manga to fashion and music, Tokyo provides the inspirational backdrop to much Japan has to offer.
The capital city's driving momentum is said to aptly reflect Dentsu's own working philosophy of "ideas, technology and entrepreneurship", captured in its slogan "Good Innovation."
Long before the arrival of smartphones and mobile marketing in the West, Japan had embraced the mobile phone.
Mobile phones have been able to directly connect to the internet here throughout the last decade, supported by a series of well- connected convenience stores for apps and credit throughout the country.
Today in Japan, your mobile phone can be used instead of money to pay for travel and daily consumer products. Vending machines throughout the largest cities recognise chips in the phones to debit your account. Furthermore, handsets are also fitted with a "mobile pass", which allows commuters to pay for train and bus rides with their mobile phones.
Information is increasingly stored in The Cloud and Dentsu is focused on being at the leading edge of developments in this area.
Kagami invited two Japanese digital specialists, Ryo Shimizu and Masataka Hosogane, who joined him on stage to describe how developments in mobile and games have ensured the agency remains an industry pioneer.
Shimizu has been involved in the communications business since 1995 and is the mastermind behind Nico Nico Doga, an online video-sharing service that is more popular than YouTube in Japan.
Unlike Google's popular video-sharing site, Nico Nico Doga allows for real-time, synchronised participation and comment.
He described how living in a crowded, fast-paced city such as Tokyo, which has a population of 12 million, compared with two million in Manhattan, can be "very stressful". His presentation was punctuated with pictures of people crammed into trains and crowds on the streets.
In this daily, urban environment, the mobile phone has become one of the last personal sanctuaries. The Japanese turn to mobile phone games to escape and, while the games themselves have not changed much since the early 90s, developments in computer technologies have improved to increase the reality.
Hosogane, who began his career as a copywriter at Dentsu, now heads the company's digital solutions division, and has been responsible for many products which bridge the worlds of analogue and digital, traditional and interactive.
He was the architect of Last Guy Standing, a popular, fast-action zombie game, where the user plays an animated hero who rescues humans from the ravages of moaning zombies and leads them to a safe haven. The game uses real-life aerial maps of various cities around the world, including Tokyo, London and Los Angeles.
To promote the game and capture its essence, Dentsu created the Last Guy Everywhere campaign, which allows you to play a mini version of the game not on a map but on any bookmarked website. With such innovations, Dentsu intends to question the growing assumption that all analogue content is going to be replaced by digital content. The ad giant prefers instead to place the emphasis on the new creations that can be achieved by combining the two.
- Akira Kagami, Executive advisor and global executive creative advisor, Dentsu
Akira Kagami leads Dentsu's global creative operation out of Tokyo, and has been with the agency since 1971. He has collected awards from Cannes Lions, AdFest, the Clio Awards, The One Show, D&AD and Media Spikes.
A believer in, and a regular speaker on the power of Asian diversity, Kagami served as the first Asian jury chairman at AdFest in 2002, the first foreign judge at the China Great Wall Advertising Awards in 2007, and the President of the Outdoor Lions at Cannes in 2009. In his spare time, he is an acclaimed author and translator of science fiction books. This year, he received the New York Festivals Lifetime Achievement Award.
- Ryo Shimizu, President and CEO, Ubiquitous Entertainment
Long before the popularity of iPhone, keitai (mobile phone) content already thrived in Japan as part of daily life. Shimizu is a celebrated Japanese pioneer of keitai creative who has introduced numerous epoch-making services. He is the mastermind behind Nico Nico Doga, an online video-sharing service whose popularity in Japan surpasses that of YouTube. In 1999, Shimizu organised a game developer community in Japan, called CEDEC, which is now an important learning community for game developers. He founded Ubiquitous Entertainment in 2003 and, focusing on mobile phones as cloud devices, he developed UBiMEMO, a PIM (personal information management) tool for mobiles and PCs.
- Masataka Hosogane, Executive creative director, Communication Design Centre, Dentsu
A copywriter and planner at Dentsu for the first 15 years of his career, Hosogane became one of the company's earliest web wizards, introducing the idea of the internet as a communication solution to hundreds of major Japanese corporations. Currently, he heads Dentsu's digital solutions division, whose cutting-edge work contributed to the company's recognition as Media Agency of the Year at Cannes and Interactive Agency of the Year at AdFest. A leader in the art of communication design, he bridges the worlds of analogue and digital, traditional and interactive.
Don't be fooled by the name, this is no address book or phone directory. Released in May 2010 by the Japanese publisher Kodansha, the PhoneBook is a new media concept that combines the technical capabilities of the iPhone with the analogue, real-world charm of children's books.
Dentsu set out to recreate that quality parent-child time that books have traditionally provided.
It works by downloading an iPhone app and then inserting the phone's screen into the book's cut-out pages.
The PhoneBook is said to be testament to the fact that often simple ideas are best. Within the first few weeks of launch, the product has caught the imagination of families throughout Japan, and was catapulted into the top ten best-sellers on the country's Amazon site.
Dentsu identified that the very physical act of "turning pages" formed part of the essential charm of storytime between parent and child.
While retaining this analogue action that is a quintessential characteristic of print media, the PhoneBook also incorporates the digital values of images, music and interactive operation that an iPhone app can provide.
The PhoneBook's concept video has already been viewed more than 600,000 times. Demand shows no signs of slackening, and the product is selling out.
Dentsu Mobile Art Lab plans to develop the PhoneBook concept and create a diverse range of products alongside traditional books, including pamphlets and catalogues for advertising purposes.
iButterfly caused a stir along la Croisette following Dentsu's presentation in Cannes, as hundreds of delegates could be seen trying to capture golden Cannes Lions butterflies via their iPhones.
The app is classic Dentsu: providing a simple, entertaining solution to delivering targeted promotional coupons.
Once downloaded and in the vicinity of a coupon-providing store, iButterfly users will see butterfly-shaped coupons flying around when they look through the camera views of their handsets.
The butterflies can be captured by swinging the iPhone and netting them. This entertaining game - which once again merges the real world with the digital one - also provides a clever promotional tool.
The free iPhone app allows users to collect coupons, using AR and the device's GPS functions, to get special offers, discounts and local relevant information.
CrimsonFox for the iPhone uses the real world as the games field. In the game, the player assumes the role of an undercover spy and has to track down and decipher AR codes that are hidden within a part of Tokyo itself, called Shibuya City.
Using the iPhone to scan the codes, clues are gained and, ultimately, the location of the final goal is unlocked.
The game has been linked in with social networking site Twitter and claims to have created a sociable, new pastime in Tokyo. Young people who tend to play games at home, making friends in cyberspace, are now venturing out to play games in the real world and physically walking around the lively, vibrant city of Shibuya.
This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk