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Chika Watanabe ―“The source of my ideas is the feeling of finding something endearing”
A Dentsu creator discusses her passion for her work

Chika Watanabe

Please tell us about the work you do.

Recently, more than just writing copy, I’ve been involved in several projects from the brainstorming stage to considering the overall direction of a project.

I’m expected to come up with ideas on how to focus attention on a product or service. So if, for example, a project team has taken a particular approach to marketing a product, I might suggest that another way of highlighting the product could attract even more attention.

I believe that a copywriter’s job is to look for different ways of marketing products, based on such factors as competitive dynamics and the changing social environment.

My strategy and approach are based on intuition, experience, as well as things I like. If a project is not to my liking, I find it difficult to maintain motivation since, even though I am part of a team, simultaneously seeing several projects through to completion can be quite hard going.

Of course, simply saying, “I like this approach, so let’s do it this way,” is not going to persuade the rest of the team. Thus, when I am intuitively confident that an approach will be successful, I give the others examples of what I mean and so try to gain their understanding.

What attracts you to a project?

Probably my main criterion is whether I find that something has appeal. Recently, I’ve come to think of anglers—people who have a passion for fishing—as having a special kind of appeal.

When I interviewed an angler in connection with my work, I couldn’t help wondering what it is that makes these people so obsessed with fishing. Although they don’t earn a living by it, their single mindedness is quite amazing. It would seem that I am attracted to people who are very passionate about something.

But I am not drawn only to people. I invariably find that some aspect of a product or service likewise has appeal. So, if in my work I can make that particular feature the focus of the project, it can be a lot of fun.

One of the projects you worked on, not just writing copy but involvement from the planning stage, was “camouflaged ice cream”, which at first glance looks like it could only be an ice pack. The product was unique and received an extremely favorable reaction. Did that idea also have as its genesis something you found endearing?

Actually, since childhood I have been interested in camouflage and mimicry. I am interested in insects that have developed camouflage. By allowing them to blend into their surroundings, it enables them to survive.

So, when I was asked to be involved in a project to develop an ice cream product that would be original and interesting, I thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun to have ice cream that blends in with other things in the freezer?”

As the youngest of three sisters, when I was growing up, there were many occasions on which my sisters ate all the ice cream before I had got any. My idea was connected to this childhood experience.

Camouflaged ice cream is a pretty zany idea but, I thought, “We can create a story based on the premise that ice cream doesn’t want to be eaten.” That would be the point of empathy. Creatively, I thought it would fly.

Liking something, yet being objective

One other thing is when you were working at Dentsu Kyushu, you worked on a campaign for the Nagasaki Bus Group. What was the story behind the creation of that campaign?


On that occasion, my habit of scenario hunting was key.

When I was working in Tokyo, before writing the scenario for a television commercial, I would visit the location where it was going to be shot, and I would interview people related to the campaign. The idea of scenario hunting never crossed my mind then.

But after having been transferred to work in Kyushu—a place with which I had no personal connection—I knew nothing about either the area nor the culture there. It was this lack of context that led me to start scenario hunting, which then became a habit.

But back to the Nagasaki campaign. First I wrote a rough draft in support of a nameless day, and took the buses and drivers—who daily lend support to Nagasaki citizens—to represent the Nagasaki Bus Group’s value in the community.

To test my hypothesis, I rode on group buses and spoke with drivers. From these encounters I chose interchanges that stood out, while at the same time distilling the story to make it more potent. Thus was born the campaign.

The approach was time-consuming and tiring, since I had to sift through a great deal of raw information. But at the same time I was exposed to ideas and ways of expressing them that otherwise never would have occurred to me.

Treasures: Records of memorable interviews

Clearly, the scenario hunting had a particularly large significance for you among your experiences. Incidentally, what do you see as your own distinctive skill?

It is probably the ability to find previously hidden value in products and services.

My interpretations have long been somewhat unorthodox, which often has enabled me to see the attractive side of products.

Product and service managers often see only one side of their product, probably because they are so passionate about it. What I am able to do is take a step back, take into account my experiences, social trends, and my overall sense of the product, and then offer an opinion from a different angle.

However, a copywriter is by no means an artist. Advertisements combine the preferences of society at large, the key points of a product, and the requirements of the client in one overarching idea. So one can’t move forward simply based on one’s own likes.

That said, I am often able to propose the best way of highlighting a product. This, to me, is the real joy of being a copywriter.

What other aspects of your work are important?

I believe one must always question one’s work right to the very end. Thus, when for the camouflaged ice cream we chose a design similar to that of an ice pack, I kept wondering whether the design could really be termed camouflage?

My doubts may have been illogical but, thinking that had I incorrectly used the term, there might be repercussions, I kept questioning my own judgment.

In the end, I consulted a professor who is an expert on mimicry and camouflage. As soon as he saw the ice cream package prototype, he said, “That is Batesian mimicry.” From that point on I was able to go forward with the project with peace of mind.

What work would you like to do in the future?

There is so much of interest to do in Japan. I find that even the serious nature of Japanese companies has its own particular appeal, and would like to communicate this aspect of the nation and its people to non-Japanese.

Top left: A newspaper ad for Mercari that looks like a situations vacant section.
Top, center right: A TV commercial and poster for the Nagasaki Bus Group.
Bottom left, right: Camouflaged ice cream developed with Sony Music Entertainment.

By looking at everyday occurrences from a slightly different perspective, Chika Watanabe provides surprise and excitement in her creative works, highlighting things we’d not otherwise notice.

Finding a degree of allure in everything, she wants to tell the world about it. Watanabe’s thoughtfulness and kindness reach the audience through her creations.


Chika Watanabe / Copywriter / Creative Planning Division 2

Chika Watanabe

Copywriter
Creative Planning Division 2

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