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Dentsu Digital:Prototyping the Future

Competition to create stronger and more intimate brand connections has never been more intense. As such, data sciences and artificial intelligence (AI) are rapidly becoming vital components in communications planning for Dentsu as well as our industry as a whole.

Emerging technologies enable brands to communicate on a personal level with their customers in ways that were unimaginable only a few years ago. Now, brands connect with individual consumers with highly targeted messages that take into account their attitudes and preferences, which can be gleaned from sources like social media, social connections and internet search history.

Dentsu has a long history of tapping into the creative imagination of the Japanese consumer as well as consumers around the world. The incorporation of new tools and technologies into its communications programs reflects Dentsu’s ambition to take advantage of new digital platforms and techniques without compromising creative vitality.

Marketing convergence, or the intersection between technology, consumer data and creativity, is a high priority among Dentsu clients. These clients come from nearly every kind of industry including cosmetic makers, fashion designers, automakers and sellers of household detergents. Meeting the demands of Dentsu clients seeking cutting-edge marketing convergence solutions was a primary driver for the establishment of Dentsu Digital in 2016.

As there are so many ways to understand individual consumer preferences, Dentsu Digital clients demand that creative solutions are grounded in an understanding of objective consumer behavior and preferences, which can be understood via big data and data analytics. Dentsu Digital’s Innovation Director Masafumi Tanizawa explains, “For me, the ability to successfully use data analytics in communications relies on at least two key factors. The first factor is that data analysis is only as useful as the questions that are being asked in the first place. If you ask interesting questions of various data sets, the results should also be interesting, and, if you are lucky, you may even uncover some surprising answers.

Masafumi Tanizawa, Innovation Director of Dentsu Digital

The second factor is closely linked with the first. That is, the data analysis itself, no matter how deep or sophisticated, is insufficient to inspire a new communications idea or product on its own. The analysis is only as useful if it can be translated into actionable ideas. The process of translating data analysis to real life creative solutions requires interdisciplinary teams who can interpret the data and then distill it into a format that inspires the creation of powerful, real life solutions.”

Part of the challenge that management consultancies as well as other agencies face is being able to translate data insights into creative insights. This process is as much art as science. Tanizawa explains, “What we do at Dentsu Digital is to imagine ‘What’s Next’ for a client in terms of products and services. This requires a more lateral approach to problem solving than is found at other communications companies. We pride ourselves in our ability to integrate the latest digital techniques with soft factors like popular culture as well as societal trends to uncover big ideas and potential innovations. Data analysis, on its own, provides a clear picture of what people are doing at a moment in time. For Dentsu Digital, the focus is on realizing opportunities beyond the present tense.”

Part of Dentsu Digital’s secret sauce is that our staff have very diverse backgrounds. There are creative directors, designers and producers, as well as data scientists on staff. Nearly all of the company’s 800 or so employees have specific skills or expertise to add to the team at Dentsu Digital. No one has the luxury of being a hands-off manager.

The background of many Dentsu Digital staff members reflects the unusual opportunities Dentsu provides for its employees. For example, Tanizawa started off as a traditional, integrated communications planner with a non-technical background. After launching one of the first campaigns in Japan using crowdsourcing nearly a decade ago in the “LOTTE GUM Fit’s Dance Contest,” he sought to educate himself to learn more about how data technology can be used in communications planning. With Dentsu’s support, he was given the space to learn computer languages and analytical techniques.

Like Tanizawa, many technologists and strategists were trained first as creatively oriented communications planners. This gives Dentsu Digital an advantage as their staff understands how to ask the right questions and think across technological platforms and media to help clients reach the people they care about most.

Building on its expertise of helping clients imagine “What’s Next,” Dentsu Digital recently launched a new business unit called Wonderful Prototyping. The meaning behind this name is (1) that the world is still full of a lot of wonder—future potential—and (2) Dentsu will discover that potential and create wonderful prototype ideas.

Members of Wonderful Prototyping

MASAFUMI TANIZAWA
Director
Dentsu DIGITAL INC.

TOMOYASU KATAGAI
Producer
DENTSU INC.

YOSHINARI YOKOYAMA
Technologist
UL Systems, Inc.

TOMOHIRO NAGAYA
Planner
DENTSU DIGITAL INC.

AKIHIRO TAKETANI
Consultant
DENTSU DIGITAL INC.

TAKA KAMIMURA
Planner
DENTSU DIGITAL INC.

TOMONORI KANDA
Consultant
DENTSU DIGITAL INC.

HAYATO KANEDA
Incubator
nameless INC.

This elite group focuses specifically on working with clients to use analytical tools to help design new products and services as well as create highly personalized and imaginative communications campaigns. Here is one example.

Wonderful Prototyping helps clients quickly assess the potential of a creative idea and the technologies required to bring these ideas to life. The development process can move much faster than via traditional communications and technology planning as the client and agency learn together through experience. This iterative creative process enables an idea to move from conception to market at maximum speed. It also creates a partnership and trust with clients that enables all parts of the process to move smoothly, from framing the client’s challenge and generating big ideas, to production. For example, Dentsu Group advertising agency The Goal, which specializes in fashion brand advertising communications planning, supports the development of planning tools using the Goal Fashion Brand Visual Positioning System (provisional name).

The world of communications is changing quickly and communications agencies must themselves transform and adapt quickly. This is why Wonderful Prototyping and Dentsu Digital deploy diverse and customized teams to meet a client’s most complex and sensitive communications and technology development challenges. For Tanizawa, “There are no limitations to our ability to bring in the necessary talent and resources from Japan and around the world to assist our clients, even if they are not found within the Dentsu system.

In the end, if we are asking our clients to quickly adapt and experiment with new processes, we at Dentsu Digital must expect to do the same: Create a prototype via collaboration and evolve quickly to meet market needs.”

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