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Decoding the Secrets of Creative Success in Japan



What does it take to make a great digital campaign in Japan? Kyoko Matsushita of Essence explains...

Decoding the Secrets of Creative Success in Japan

How can one accomplishment be translated into ongoing success? There is inherent risk in every campaign, more so when implementing in a foreign market, where differences in culture, aesthetics and behaviours come into play. For today’s brands, new technologies and methods to collect, analyse and apply insights from data are lessening the risks, letting creative teams reach for new heights.

A study conducted by Dynamic Logic (today’s Millward Brown Digital) in 2009 showed that 70 per cent of the impact of a campaign is directly attributable to the quality of the creative. This finding is undoubtedly true in every market in the world. Yet, there are many stories in our industry about great creative campaigns that work almost everywhere except Japan.

What makes this market unique is not inattention to creative quality, but cultural and aesthetic standards that can veer wildly from what the industry has learned to expect elsewhere. Brands that encourage creative development matching the expectations of the market have the best track records. The risks are high, but this is the third-largest economy in the world. The potential rewards are just as high.

Yet, while marketers acknowledge that there is risk inherent in every creative endeavour, they are also on a never ending quest to minimise that risk to the extent possible. For conventional media campaigns, this means running creative ideas past real consumers, or doing surveys of target audiences to gauge their preferences in advance, or any of numerous other methods designed to enhance creative potential.

In the digital arena, we have some unique tools at our disposal: rapidly expanding volumes of data, and the technologies and scientific methods to make use of it.

Great digital creative fails if it is not seen by the right audiences, is shown against content that is not brand-safe, or is simply not visible at all. Against this backdrop, advances in tracking technology over the past few years have made it possible to report on ad viewability and apply the new industry standard called “viewable impressions.” (The Media Rating Council defines a digital ad as viewable when 50 per cent of its pixels are in view on the user’s screen for at least one second.) This is where solutions can play a vital role in ensuring brand safety, protecting budgets and providing viable feedback that can be used in future campaigns.

Good data science also reinforces the artistic vision and creative skills required to bring brands to life, through highly precise testing, to validate decisions before an actual creative is launched in the market. It is no longer necessary to wait until the end of a campaign to find out that a creative is under-performing. This lets advertisers focus spend on the most successful creative.

What’s more, testing clarifies what communication and design principles work best for a particular brand in a digital environment. With that, the levels of uncertainty and risk advertisers face when launching digital campaigns are lessened from the outset. And, learning is made possible by ongoing data collection and analysis, ensuring that each new campaign enjoys a head start to becoming a hit.

Today’s digital agencies are continuously advancing technologies and methods to further our understanding of how people interact with advertising. By analysing data on who is watching, when, where, for how long and with what resulting behaviours, agencies help clients make campaign decisions that generate and foster valuable connections with their consumers.

At Essence, for example, our creative research tools allow us to provide quantitative answers to questions about whether a creative will drive brand recognition, in a clean, unbiased environment. We then benchmark each creative against our entire data set, to identify key areas where the ad excels or performs badly compared to its peers. Armed with this feedback, creative teams can adjust their output without getting bogged down in discussions where personal preference might sway the decision making process.

The value of such solutions is especially clear in markets as complex as Japan. Government statistics show that Japan’s Internet population comprises more than 80pc of the total population. In 2014, 98pc of these users accessed the internet with a broadband connection, and more than 85pc used mobile devices. In such an environment, members of every possible target audience are online at different times during the day. It is vital to navigate campaigns so that the most important audiences see the creative and interact with the brand in a positive way. Data science is invaluable in the process of making this happen.

The ultimate mission of digital agencies here is to decode Japan, to learn the secrets of creative success by applying data analysis results with precision and agility, adding to creative the remaining 30pc of campaign performance on behalf of our clients.

Kyoko Matsushita is managing director, APAC, Essence Tokyo

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