Creative Series: The Transition of the Advertising Industry

By Tatsuhisa Nakajima, VP, Executive Creative Director of Grey Group Japan

Some say that the advertising industry in Japan is rather different from other countries. The three top advertising agencies accounts for approximately 86.5% of the sales shares in Japan and in fact, the top advertising agency dominates slightly more than 50% of that number. Interestingly, these advertising agencies own actual media inventory in various mediums and develop creative work that are used on these mediums. In other words, they have viable revenue streams on selling the media they own.

The domestic industry reached its lowest point slightly after the 2008 Lehman Shock (a term the Japanese used in reference to the 2008 global financial crisis due to the collapse of Lehman Brothers). Ever since then, the industry has been making a gradual recovery. Having said that, traditional media (such as television commercials) are hitting the wall as opposed to internet / digital based media, which we see are on the rise. Seeing an opportunity, the top two agencies have being rebuilding their business through amalgamation with digital agencies.

In recent years, even advertising agencies known for relying on traditional media have begun exploring alternative business models. Unconventional approaches in advertising as well as industry innovations are expected to surge.

Another interesting change we have seen in recent years is that there is an increasing need to recognise and acknowledge the diversity in current consumer preferences. Strong branding strategies coupled with in-store activation activities such as point-of-purchase and sales promotions are critical for effective campaigns especially where there is a downturn in consumption. Large convenience stores chains and mega shopping malls are also known for embarking on disruptive strategies as part of their marketing and PR activities by initiating their own unique campaigns and marketing ‘private labels’ (or in-house labels).

As a member of the Japanese advertising industry, I have the privilege to shortlist the best creative professionals for the annual JAAA’s (Japan Advertising Agencies Association) Creator of the Year award. While going through the nominations of late, I noticed a slight change in their profiles. Aside from those involved in traditional media, there seemed to be a growing number of award-winning digital and design-oriented creatives. Seeing this change in the industry has made me reconsider the definition of an advertising creative. As a previous winner of the award myself, I am beginning to re-consider the definition of creative work as well.

Nowadays, creatives who are referred as Digital Technologists are flourishing. The era where creators are not expected to be artists is now shifting to a different consciousness. There are even advertisements that win the hearts of consumers by design alone. A new wave of consciousness is here and we must not stop at just creating something that works to sell on the basis of logic. We would need the mindset of an artist who creates something that intuitively makes one feel, who looks at creativity as a mean that touches the heart.



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