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A View On the Young Spikes Design Competition

Advertising Agency
Tokyo, Japan
Dentsu's Sayuri Nakagawa and Yu Watanabe on their journey to picking up a Young Spikes Silver award

Spikes Asia is held every year as one of the largest advertising festivals in the Asian region. Among the events at the festival are the Young Spikes competitions, which are open to participants up to the age of 30. In various categories, such as the Young Spikes Digital Competition and Young Spikes PR Competition, a team of two people representing each participating country competes by creating and presenting a campaign on a topic decided at the event. 

At this year’s competition held in Singapore, a team from Dentsu made up of Sayuri Nakagawa, a copywriter from Creative Planning Division 5, and Yu Watanabe, an art director from Creative Planning Division 1, entered the Young Spikes Design Competition and won the silver award. We spoke with both of them after the competition about the creation of their award-winning work and what they gained from their experiences. 

From left: Yu Watanabe, Art Director, Creative Planning Division 1; Sayuri Nakagawa, Copywriter, Creative Planning Division 5

Feelings of both delight and disappointment, but an enjoyable experience all around

Q> How do you feel now after participating in the Young Spikes Design Competition? 

Nakagawa> I was really glad to have participated in the event. Receiving the award also made me very happy, and the social event that followed the competition was really enjoyable since I do not have many opportunities to talk about advertising with people from other countries. The other participants were around the same age as us because the Young Spikes competitions are limited to people up to 30 years old, so having the chance to talk with creatives of the same generation from other agencies was really valuable and stimulating.

Watanabe> I was happy to receive the silver award but, at the same time, disappointed not to have won the gold. Nevertheless, it was a very enjoyable time. While working in Japan, I don’t have many opportunities to talk with people from other countries. Therefore, getting ideas from people from various countries and working in a completely different environment was a great experience for me. 

Q> Why did the two of you enter this year’s competition?

Nakagawa> Yu and I joined Dentsu in the same year in 2011, and three years later we presented a submission to the Mainichi Advertisement Design Awards and won the top prize. After that, he was transferred to the Chubu branch office in the city of Nagoya, and I went to the UK to study for a year and a half. Then we both returned to Tokyo around the same time, so we took that opportunity to enter this competition together again. 

Watanabe> I was in Nagoya for about four years, and it was there where I worked with Michihito Dobashi, who won a Grand Prix award at Cannes Lions while at the Chubu branch office. Influenced by him and others at the office, I felt motivated to enter international competitions. 

Nakagawa> At my workplace, too, my young co-workers were trying to enter more and more competitions, so I didn’t hesitate to enter.

The pair responded to their assignment by reducing the worries of mothers by half

Q> The qualifying round for the Young Spikes Design Competition you entered was open to the public, and 10 teams were finally chosen to compete. What assignment were you given in the final round, and what kind of campaign did you propose?

Nakagawa> The client was Johnson’s, which is well-known for its baby care products. It wanted to launch a new set of baby shampoo and baby oil, so our task was to devise a branding strategy for those products. We were required to submit a 10-slide presentation and a gift box for the products. After the task was announced, we had to submit our proposal for the campaign the next day, and then make the gift box and give the presentation the following day. 

Watanabe> As part of the evaluation criteria, the campaign had to cover both online and offline components, and include techniques for facilitating purchasing decisions by consumers. Although we entered the design category, this task was similar to communication design.

Nakagawa> There were a few distinct aspects of Johnson’s new products. The types of raw materials used in them were reduced by half compared with the previous products. Moreover, ingredients that can irritate infants were limited as much as possible in order to improve safety for babies. 

The new products targeted millennial-generation mothers with small children. Market research on these women has revealed three things: information overload on the Internet is a source of excessive worrying, they sometimes feel pressure about not appearing as a perfect mother on social networking sites, and they place the highest priority on their children’s safety. 

Therefore, we thought about how to position Johnson’s as the brand most relevant to the concerns of millennial-generation mothers. Using 'half' as the key word of our proposal, we imagined halving the concerns the mothers have when sharing things on social media and other means. That led to the design copy: 'Cut worries in half'.

Watanabe> When we decided for sure on the concept, I created the design for the main logo. Using the letter J of Johnson’s as a motif, I extended the end of the letter like a slash to create an image of the logo being halved. 

Nakagawa> For the campaign, we encouraged mothers to post their concerns on a dedicated website and social networking services with the hash tag '#Cutworriesinhalf', and made the product package look like a gift box to be given as a present. In that way, our campaign covered both the online and offline elements. 

Courtesy of Spikes Asia 2018

Watanabe> Actually, about one week before the competition, I had a chance to consult with Michihito Dobashi about another work we had produced for practice purposes based on an assignment given at Young Lions in Cannes in the past. He told me that what Sayuri and I excelled at was the clarity of our concept. With that in mind, the two of us were very determined this time to make the campaign easy to understand. During the competition, we decided to try and win it based on simplicity and clarity, so we proposed designs over and over while closely examining the concept of the work. 

I think we gave importance to bringing out our strengths while trying to win this competition. We take the same approach in our work. For example, when several ideas are put forward, the ones that do not suit our strengths will lack precision. In that light, we were lucky to have understood our strengths in advance of this competition.

Overjoyed that an idea could be conveyed universally, regardless of national and cultural boundaries

Q> Did you think the simplicity of the campaign led to high marks from the judges?

Watanabe> Yes, when Sayuri gave the presentation, the judges appeared to immediately understand the concept. We were also delighted that the judge who evaluated us most highly was a woman who has a 17-year-old daughter. She told us that we had effectively integrated market research findings on mothers in our campaign. I’m not a woman and our perspective, nationality and language are different, but we were still able to communicate our ideas. That really boosted my self-confidence.

Q> What did the two of you learn from this year’s competition? 

Nakagawa> It was a great opportunity for me to look at copywriting in a fresh light. English was used for the copy at the competition, so I searched for ways to express our ideas differently than in Japanese. Since English is not my native language, I tried to make the message simple and direct instead of using rhetoric. If copy is too simple, however, it may lack impact. Therefore, I had to think hard about how to find the right balance. 

Watanabe> Being abroad, I felt the significance of communicating with people who don’t share the same cultural background. When discussing design, for instance, we would question why certain shapes and colours were used. I really appreciated being in a setting that differs so much from my workplace in Japan. 

Q> Finally, what goals are you thinking about for the future?

Nakagawa> When I went to school in London, I studied gender and media issues. The UK is a very ethnically diverse country compared with Japan, and for that reason, I became aware of many ways of dealing with ethnicity and gender in advertising. Someday I hope to be involved in an advertising project that sends a message to the public about gender and diversity. At the competition, I was able to present our ideas to people from diverse backgrounds, so it was a very valuable experience. Looking ahead, I would like to participate in more international competitions and work abroad. 

Watanabe> An especially significant aspect of this competition was being able to convey our ideas to people from various countries and cultural backgrounds. That experience had a big impact on me, so I feel really motivated to create works that don’t depend on words and can convey ideas non-verbally. It would also be great if I could win an advertising award overseas again someday. 

Receiving the award for the Young Spikes Design Competition 

Sayuri Nakagawa is a copywriter at Creative Planning Division 5

Yu Watanabe is an art director at Creative Planning Division 1