The World: Insider's view - Japan

Advertising in Japan squeezes the most out of technology to appeal to consumer demand. It's time the UK market let go of its new media fears and caught up, Ali Alvarez says.

Lots of sweeping statements are made about work overseas, many of which are unfortunately, yet understandably, a result of people working in their cultural bubbles.

One generalisation about Japanese work I heard before going there was that the market and the work is naive. That Brit work is more "sophisticated". I've even had Japanese people tell me this.

But that is people in their bubbles talking. This isn't a naive market. It's one of the most technologically advanced and consumer-demanding markets on earth. While we're getting our heads around what technology means to us, they've been using it in their daily lives for years.

Mobile phones are imaging-translating-information-serving-media-entertaining pocket lifelines. Their toilets sing. Their off-licences serve up eggs, milk, faxes, e-mails, and airline tickets.

This is a culture where technology and media live right alongside the people who use it. At every age. Generations buy portable Nintendo DS. Not just children, but mums use them for cooking and grandparents to keep mentally sharp.

And advertising takes full advantage. Work is executed in more touchpoints than we can think of, and in ways we've never seen. It's constantly changing and in places that may seem strange.

It's a media playground here. With a whole society willing to play. I think of them as Consumer 2.0. Not too dissimilar from the ones we've got in London, just with newer toys.

They're a guide to what's coming. Back in the London bubble, it looks like we're still using Creative 1.0. We're barely reflecting the future, let alone defining it. Our work has to be better than clever, it has to be truly surprising and interesting, from idea to end ... wherever that might be. We have to update.

Consumer 2.0 proves technology and media aren't going to be something only the "web" or "interactive department" within agencies understands. Creative should not just blow you away with conceptual thinking, but also in the way agencies present it to the consumer. They must because the consumer is getting more agile, mobile, media savvy and, most importantly, bored.

It is time to play and experiment, to build new worlds and experiences, to use tools we've never used. I feel people tip-toeing around "new media". Stop. New media is scary only if you're constantly asking its permission. "Is it possible to ..." From what I have seen in Japan, yes, it is.

Stop thinking other departments will do it, stop thinking clients aren't ready, stop putting media requirements on briefs whenever possible. We've got lots of new ground to break, and it's time for London to get up to speed.

- Ali Alvarez, a copywriter, recently returned to Fallon in London after a sabbatical at the network's Tokyo office.

Topics