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Tokyo Silvers

Clever clients find clever creatives

Yesterday I met Toshiya Fukuda of 777 Interactive. He leads a small, highly creative team who have been rolling out a string of award winning digital projects since their inception in 2004.

Toshi took me through some of his favourite projects including an epic ambient-media project for Sony, entitled ‘Colour is Magic’ where users could change the colour of their flagship store in Ginza through a website and watch it happen in real time. (I asked what happened when lots of people hit the site at the same time and the answer was, quite simply; “they have to wait”.)

He also told me about their work for Pachinko company Heiwa. Unsurprisingly, Pachinko companies have lots and lots of money so when challenged with promoting a new machine featuring a famous Japanese Manga series about a diamond thief called Lupin III they saw no problem with 777’s idea of offering 5 (count ’em) ¥1,000 000 diamonds as prizes for the lucky site visitor able to crack the website’s code!

My absolute favorite story was of the campaign for the Future Marketing Summit 2007 where they installed a parrot in a cage with a webcam for 3 months (it’s OK, apparently “Fyu-chan” only worked for 8 hours a day) and invited users to try and to train it to say ‘Future Marketing”. The parrot was then wheeled out at the launch in the hope that he would say the name of the event on stage. He didn’t.

777 often work through Advertising giant Hakuhudo which Toshi cites as having many benefits when working across many mediums as they can focus on the concepts safe in the knowledge that they have the media/creative/strategy specialists to facilitate them. They also team up with companies like TYO Interactive and new digital production companies 602 and Kayac to develop larger projects. Toshi’s reputation is such that ideas, not size, are important to the clients they attract. As Toshi says “Clever clients find clever creatives and vice versa”

It struck me how much collaboration there is between the guys I have met on these pages to deliver big ideas within small companies – maintaining great relationships with clients and with each other as a network of digital visionaries, rather than business rivals. Toshi talked about Koichiro Tanaka (Projector),  Naoki Ito (of GT, who I meet tomorrow) and Takayoshi Kishimoto from Unit9 (to whom I am forever indebted for making all of these introductions) and how important it is for the Japanese industry to have aspirational figureheads driving forward great concepts with great execution, integrity and attention to detail.

I was also interested to learn that Toshi teaches weekly at both Musashino Art University and Tama Art University progressing ideas of information and interactive design within their traditional Graphic Design courses. He feels he has an important role in facilitating new ways of thinking about changing media in Advertising and Design at student level.

It was a fascinating afternoon – we talked so much that I barely had time to eat the lunch that 777 had so kindly presented on my arrival. A small box which succeeded in simultaneously catering to my love of neat packaging, condiments AND coleslaw. Damn, these guys are good!

Great Work(s), great people

Last Friday I was very kindly invited to join Great Works for their weekly lunchtime get-together. We ate delicious Chinese bento boxes whilst they told me a bit about themselves and the work they do in the Tokyo branch of this Swedish digital media company.

Jun Inoue is the Creative Director and the company’s core team is made up mainly of Project Managers and Account Directors (like many small creative agencies here in Tokyo they rely on a network of trusted freelancers). They also often work in collaboration with sister company TYO interactive and there is lots of cross-fertilisation from the offices in New York, Stockholm and Barcelona (how cool?). They develop interactive campaigns, magazines, machines, movies, songs, websites and games and seem to all have a lot of fun doing it.

Their main clients are Audi (site launched in the small hours of last week) and H&M. For Audi they handle Japan’s overall online presence targeting both existing and aspiring Audi owners. They develop interactive video content as well as managing the site and the CRM (something they are being asked to do more and more).

They describe their working hours as ‘pretty crazy’ (there are TWO beds in the meeting room!) and are all very excited by the challenges brought about by emerging technologies, the Japanese passion for gadgets and interactivity and some very tech-savvy clients.

Long hours, fun times, thanks guys.. it was great to meet you all.

(Portraits taken from the company site)

Woman Dancing in Yoyogi-koen

On Sunday, amongst all the crazy fashionistas, there was woman in a full yellow skirt dancing to a drum in a shady part of the forest. This drawing only captures a tiny fragment of her grace and energy but I wanted her to be on here.

Cho saikou, Harajuku girls

Harajuku Style

Planning to go and spy on the craziness again tomorrow but this is a little taste from the other day..

Beyond Logic

On Thursday I met with a bona fide digital guru. Koichiro Tanaka is Creative Director of Projector – the team that create the amazing, multi-award winning digital work for UniQlo.

Koichiro has been working with UniQlo for the last 4 years and was originally appointed as their global digital consultant by their new Digital Communications Director. The online presence over this period has very much been the vision of two men, one of whom (not Koichiro) came from the banking sector!

Koichiro talked of the difference between forcing your audience to engage with a brand, i.e. TV or traditional print media, and getting them to choose to engage. That’s where he saw his challenge – giving users a reason to engage and then share. To create a piece of branded entertainment that had the creative integrity and intent of a film, a magazine or a piece of music.

It all started with a YouTube ad that earned 2 Million views (and counting) and blossomed with the UniClok. UniQlo and Projector work with musicians, artists, actors and choreographers all over  Japan to create their content and are constantly developing new ways to boost the positive global perception of Japanese modernity and align it with that of the UniQlo brand.

You only have to look at the stats on the world map of the UniClok to see the global impact this project has had. With the next UniQlo creation the pressure was certainly to take it to the next level but Koichiro and Projector had earned the creative credit to take the time to get it right. They spent 6 months developing the next concept compared to just 4 months on the build. But, as Koichiro is keen to stress, this is just a framework – like the UniClok content will continueto be developed for the site and fed to the external widgets. For him, a project merely begins with the launch of the site.

The UniQlo Calendar was released a month ago and has had 2 billion sessions so far. Say. No. More. I could write endless paragraphs about how beautiful and clever it is but I think the biggest compliment I can pay it is that I have found it more useful than the Lonely Planet in deciding where to travel to in my second month here.

I asked Koichiro why he thought these applications resonated so powerfully with users across the world and he cites being able to harness a connection between utility and expression in a way that, like a piece of art, transcends local trends and engages universally. “We create something that is useful but that also goes beyond logic, to be hypnotic, rhythmic and mesmerising.”

Tokyo's got curves in all the right places

Lanterns in Harajuku

Ladies who lunch

Today I met Miho Tanaka of Three White Design. Miho studied at the Royal College of Art and returned to Tokyo in 2000 with in interesting objective – to set up a Japanese graphic design studio modelled on a London one.

As I mentioned in my post about TYO-ID roughly 90% of Tokyo design studios work through the two main advertising agencies here. Miho gained experience in this area and whilst she did some excellent, high profile work she found the need to communicate directly with the client too important to operate as, effectively, a third party.

Miho’s experience in London was moulded by her involvement with a Japanese/English arts magazine called ‘Exposure’. She still works with some of the people she met on this publication and cites the experience of working closely with the writers and editors – of a real collaboration between verbal and visual thinkers – as something that has driven her direct and selective approach.

Miho’s ‘life’s work’, as she describes it, is photographing Taxi Drivers around the world and has exhibited this collection extensively. She is currently most excited by Three White’s involvement with two Japanese sweet and cake companies and she sees a role for them as a promoter of Japanese food culture, an area she is passionate about. Talking of which we had a delicious lunch of sour fried pork and pumpkin after our show and tell session!

I also met Miho’s intern Karin Kunori who is studying at RISD under the auspicious tutelage of John Maeda. She told me that he hosts regular early morning jogging sessions with his students and local entrepreneurs in Rhode Island. Karin goes – she’s a smart and dynamic girl – so much so she even beat me to today’s write up!


I'm Franki Goodwin, Creative Director at Saatchi&Saatchi London and Executive Producer at Western Edge Pictures. Please feel to have a good old root around my work below. Some of it has won lots of awards. Some of it hasn't, but I'm proud of every single one of these projects. Thanks for visiting, say hi at franki@frankigoodwin.com