A year ago, Ultra Super New’s co-founder and CEO Marc Wesseling shared his thoughts on the ‘loose’ lockdown Japan’s government had implemented in the country. Now that a lot of time has passed and he and his colleagues in the country’s creative industry have weathered the work-from-home storm and the impact this has on creativity and campaigns.
As Japan looks to the Olympics and the ‘post-corona’ phase, LBB’s Natasha Patel caught up with Marc to hear how he’s fared over the past year and why he feels privileged to have spent the majority of the last year in Japan.
LBB> What is life like in Japan at the moment and how would you describe the mood of the country?
Marc> I think the mood in Japan was and is OK. There was never a severe lockdown and the government only provided guidelines instead of enforcing rules which gave a sense of freedom and choice. Some people are more cautious than others but in general Japanese respect each other by wearing masks and keeping social distancing. Besides that in most parts of Japan it was pretty much life as usual so I personally had a great wintersport season - no tourists and fantastic snow! Cherry blossom season just started which is always an amazing time in Japan - you can feel the positivity in the air.
LBB> How have living and working with these guidelines impacted creativity in your opinion?
Marc> Because of the government WFH guidelines our office was running on low capacity which caused people to work over video-calls. I strongly believe that in our industry we have to physically work together to create amazing things and that the lockdown had an impact on the creative. It for sure pushed us to think even more digitally, which actually was a good thing.
In the long run, I am sure this WFH trend will vanish or only be applicable for professions or companies that are not reliant on social interactions. On the other hand, I think there will be a creative boom once we enter the post-corona phase. I can already see this from my artist friends and the work that they want to show at our gallery, let aside the crazy parties that will happen!
LBB> There’s so much uncertainty around the Olympics at the moment, what has this done for campaigns and planning?
Marc> I don’t think many Japanese considered the Olympics a priority during the pandemic. Now we are getting closer to the Olympics, I think we should fully embrace it and use the Olympic torch as a beacon of hope. The 2021 Tokyo Olympics have the potential to become one of the most special Olympics ever and truly bring the world together.
LBB> When we spoke last year you mentioned that there was no enforced lockdown in the country, I guess the figures account for a population who does what they're told! What are your views on how the public has acted?
Marc> Great question and I feel privileged to spend most of the pandemic in Japan. And yes, Japanese simply cooperate with each other to comply with the group - more important they don’t want to be a burden to anyone else. This is a totally different mindset than the West where we think the individual is more important than the collective.
I am happy that I was in Japan where the government put the responsibility on the collective and placing key values such as choice, freedom and privacy on the forefront instead of many countries with a very strict government that is telling the population what to do with a full arsenal of laws, measures and tools to control everybody; it was a good opportunity to read Orwell and Huxley again…
Who did it right? We will know in the coming years when we will see the full social impact of the pandemic.
LBB> Are communications still centring around hygiene/sanitation?
Marc> Yes, but in general Japanese are the cleanest people in the world so no need to tell them to wash their hands or keep social distance - they bow anyway!
LBB> Has life changed much in the past year compared to how it is now?
Marc> Yes I think so. As said before, I think we will see the full impact of the pandemic and all the lockdowns etc. in the coming years. You can already see a clear distinction between people who use the pandemic as something to turn things around and people who got caught in fear and stress or unfortunately lost their loved ones.
There will be a massive boom of spending and good companies are anticipating this in time and taking a proactive approach. People talk about the next summer of love so you can feel the hope and desire. I think it will be a very very interesting time in the coming years.
LBB> Any parting thoughts?
Marc> Never stop thinking for yourself but always keep others in mind and make the best of the situation.