Q&A: Masato Mitsudera, Executive Creative Director Geometry Global, Japan


Masato Mitsudera first got his start in Japan’s ad industry two decades ago. After starting his career at Yomiko Advertising in 1997, Mitsudera joined beacon communications k.k. in 2003. When he was later appointed Executive Creative Director in 2012 he was the youngest person to take the position in the agency’s history.

But it was three years earlier in 2009 when Mitsudera made his name after initiating a revitalization campaign for Japan’s Yubari city called “Yubari Fusai”.

 
 

The work would go on to make him the first person from Japan to be awarded the Grand Prix for the Promo category at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

To this day, his passion for helping local communities is one he still pursues.

“I love Japan and spend weekends working on revitalizing local areas in the country,” he said.

 
 

Branding in Asia recently spoke with Masato Mitsudera about his work, how advertising creatives are different than other creatives and his passion for keeping it local.


How has the role of the creative agency changed since you’ve been in the industry?

I entered the advertising industry about 20 years ago. The motivation was to create TV commercials. I grew up with TV – as a TV kid, I felt great and proud to see the commercials I created being broadcasted across the world, reaching a global audience.

But as time went by, the global trend as well as my own interest, shifted from just creating commercials to the motivation to change people’s behavior. And along the way, I’ve witnessed the new role of agencies emerged. In this era of information, how we grab people’s attention is not only about the selection and integration of media. The power of the information to transmit itself matters.

This led to a new client-agency relationship dynamic, which is a real partnership between the two parties. Agencies need to get involved from the very beginning stage of a project to discuss the fundamentals of the information to transmit.

Can you talk about your creative process?

I believe that inspiration is the very true value of a creator. In general, the adland creatives deal with a number of different industries’ projects, while other industry creatives work on one specific field only – this is a huge difference between the advertising industry and others.

One of the hot trends in Japanese advertisements is promoting regions and cities in a unique way. We even say, we are living in ‘the Age of Civil Wars for Regional Promotion.’

Having gone through so many different industries, from tobacco and jeans to alcohol and toys, we gain inspiration that clients usually don’t have, while proposing solutions that clients don’t easily find themselves.

It might sound condescending, but I think we have a bird’s eye view on the global trend, learn it, and make use of it elsewhere. Adland’s good creatives will and should be able to do so.

Learn from others, pick up something that people usually overlook, and it will become an integral part of inspiration – that’s our strongest weapon.

You’re in charge of both foreign and domestic affiliated clients. Is there much of a difference in your approach to dealing with each? 

Most works for foreign clients are usually to localize ideas based on the global concept, but the audience is Japanese. We have to understand the local culture and then reflect the idea with a bit of flexibility, otherwise the idea won’t be accepted here.

Meanwhile, domestic clients have very unique “Japanese” ideas but many of them still find it challenging to communicate to the non-Japanese audience. I believe we are well positioned to incorporate the best of both and generate strong campaigns to change people’s behaviors.

The recent work that Geometry did for Diesel’s “The Walls” campaign is just one in a long historical line of brands choosing political sides. How do you approach this kind of work from a creative standpoint?

The brief for latest Diesel campaign was simple; localize the global message which is “Make Love Not Walls.” However we don’t have physical/visible wall here. There is no way that a local audience would have taken it as their own issue if we had used the same concept of “wall”, which is about immigration, ethnic groups or politics.

That’s why we decided to look for “the wall that blocks love”, which still exists here.

The Japanese personality of being shy and diligent often creates such an invisible wall, and this ad resonated well with audience. I think the key to success was opening up the reality of Japan based on the Diesel’s strong statement.

What are some recent trends in Japanese advertising that you are fond of?

One of the hot trends in Japanese advertisements is promoting regions and cities in a unique way. We even say, we are living in “the Age of Civil Wars for Regional Promotion”.

Ad industry creatives are joining forces across the country, to promote various regions using impactful concepts and events.

It might sound condescending, but I think we have a bird’s eye view on the global trend, learn it, and make use of it elsewhere. Adland’s good creatives will and should be able to do so.

I also work for some local cities and governments. The best part of such work is that they let me profoundly contemplate what each city is made up of, its cultural/societal assets, its residents’ dynamics, etc. Each city has its own unique selling points which can surprise the world – that’s the region’s own power to win people’s heart without huge financial investment.

One thing I’d like to mention is that advertising activities of local companies don’t usually get media attention. However, they have good causes, especially from an economic perspective. Rejuvenation of the local economy is a common challenge which local governments, local companies, as well as local media companies, are facing. So I always find it exciting to see my own ideas have directly contributed to increase the number of visitors and to improve the infrastructure.

What work are you most proud of over the course of your career?

“Yubari City Campaign” that won the Cannes Lions Grand Prix in 2009. It was not only my first city promotion project but also a career turning point.

This 3-year-project was aimed at turning the small bankrupt town into a self-sustaining one, changing Yubari city residents’ attitude toward their own city and lifting the local economy.

Campaign creators are generally the ones behind the scenes, however, I was at the forefront of implementing the project. I was on the ground to arrange a series of seminars for the local citizens and host press conference with city mayor, for example.

The weight of responsibility was very heavy, but that’s what made me today and it’s still my lifetime asset.

 

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