The partner and chief strategy officer / creative director at M&C Saatchi Tokyo on the moment he knew creativity was for him and what creativity in Japan is like at the moment
M&C Saatchi Tokyo’s Nobu Yamamoto has always had an eye for the broader concept around visual communications. He studied the subject – and did a Master’s in it – at university in Japan before heading off to work for Sony’s brand and marketing communications department in New York.
Since then, he has headed up the brand’s first ever global marketing campaign, ‘do you dream in Sony’, and played a part in creating Beijing’s digital science museum for children in a way that would help them touch upon advanced technology and understand it from Sony’s perspective.
To hear more about Nobu’s experiences and life in a country that has all eyes on it due to the Olympics, LBB’s Natasha Patel caught up with him.
LBB> Firstly how are things in Japan at the moment and how has the past year changed the country’s creative scene?
Nobu> Since the Covid-19 calamity, we have seen frequently message-driven advertising. I feel that there are many corporate advertisements from companies and local governments that tend to insist on the raison d'etre of the company itself rather than the product. Since such a direction leads to a social message, the visuals can be very simple and bold to strengthen that message.
LBB> With that in mind, how, if any way, have the tensions surrounding the Olympics had an impact on campaigns?
Nobu> Interest in the Olympics is now very inertial. Therefore, it can be said that it is not affected because there is no major campaign using the Olympics. I think there is a growing tendency to select and purchase genuine products and services from the consumer desire behaviour of sales campaigns that use huge events.
LBB> Your career began after you studied design at university before heading to New York to work for Sony, how did this come about?
Nobu> I studied design in a broader concept, that was Visual Communication Design, integrating all the methods and visual mediums including drawing, sculpture, welding, photography, graphic design, video art, sign design, printing, filming, video engineering, image aesthetics, art history and so on. Through one of the classes there was a project that was to start up a company, from then, I realised that running a company is to design a business. I think it is the branding. So I joined the brand related division at Sony HQ.
LBB> I know you headed Sony's first global marketing campaign - what was this experience like?
Nobu> That campaign had the tagline “do you dream in Sony?” When Mr. [Nobuyuki] Idei became the president of Sony, he thought it necessary to regenerate Sony from just an electronic company to a unique company with electrotonic and entertainment business domain. The campaign was implemented in the US intentionally as it is the centre of world entertainment. Sony's first attempt at a global level campaign eventually led to global initiatives such as FIFA sponsorship.
LBB> You've been in the industry for almost two decades now - what have been the biggest changes during that time?
Nobu> I think that the positive side was that obviously digital expanded or broke the definition and barriers of creators in the industry. Art directors and copywriters are no longer the only creators. On the other hand, I believe that communication design requires "the ability to imagine" and "ability of understanding strategy", but I feel that the number of people who have it has decreased. The fact that consulting companies have been hiring designers, and vice versa ad agencies have been seeking business consultants indicates this well.
LBB> How did you go from brand side to working in an agency, and what was it like joining M&C Saatchi Tokyo?
Nobu> Our office was founded by the leadership of our current CEO and chief creative officer with some key members including myself. As we have a great CCO and me having a client background, my role naturally became the strategic part with creative planning in mind.
LBB> How has a rise in digital consumption impacted campaigns especially for a Japanese audience?
Nobu> Communication used to be one-way from the advertiser to the audiences, but it became two-way, and now the participation of the audience is a prerequisite.
LBB> I read that you played a pivotal role in contributing to the creation of the digital science museum, ExploraScience for children in Beijing. How did this come about?
Nobu> The digital entertainment facility of ExploraScience was planned strategically in order for Sony to rebuild its brand and business in the Chinese market. During research in major cities in China under a specific hypothesis, one of the questions we asked was: “Who do you want to become like in the future?” Surprisingly, most of the Chinese children at that time, who Sony sought a long-term relationship with, answered with the same name of an American entrepreneur. Do you have an idea who that was?
Through the results of research, I found that three points would be the keys to rebuild a better relationship with Chinese younger generations. Which were:
That’s why we planned to build that digital entertainment museum for the Chinese children with learning from analogue types of entertainment museums in the US as a reference. Our digital museum enabled children to touch the advanced digital technology and enjoyed interactive technology from Sony. And that was how we tried to change the fixed reputation indirectly onto Sony from older generations as well.