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Advertising creativity paves the way for corporate initiatives going forward
Incorporating the ideas of ad creators in corporate and social creative initiatives will be a highly valuable

Creative ideas used in the advertising industry are being applied more and more in industries today. In recent years, ideas that had mainly been used in advertising in the past have been incorporated in management and the business activities of corporations. For example, this year Isehan Co., Ltd., a Japanese cosmetics manufacturer, launched an innovative recruitment campaign through which it encouraged female applicants to attend job interviews wearing their own style of clothing and make-up. As an unspoken rule, female job interviewees are expected to wear standard business clothes and no-frills makeup in Japan, so the campaign aroused interest nationwide. In another example, professional baseball team owner Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters Baseball Club Co., Ltd., introduced a tool for recruiting mid-career employees and persuading their families to move. Recognizing that the main obstacle to attracting workers to Hokkaido, the country’s northernmost prefecture, is an unwillingness to move there, the company provided presentation materials highlighting the benefits of working and living in Hokkaido.

Both of these employee recruitment campaigns were planned and developed by advertising creators. Dentsu’s Noritaka Kobuse (Group Creative Director, Creative Planning Division 3) and Junta Yoshikawa (Communication Planner, Creative Planning Division 2) were involved in the projects. It’s their belief that incorporating the ideas of ad creators in corporate and social creative initiatives will be a highly valuable going forward, and discussed the reasons for this in the following dialogue.

(From left)
Noritaka Kobuse, Group Creative Director, Creative Planning Division 3
Junta Yoshikawa, Communication Planner, Creative Planning Division 2

Drawing from Isehan’s corporate identity in its recruitment campaign

Yoshikawa: The moment I saw you here, I knew what I would talk about today.

Kobuse: We have worked together on many projects and we regularly discuss our work. Recently, we’ve talked a lot about how creative techniques used in the advertising industry can be applied elsewhere. Generally speaking, advertising creators have applied their ideas in advertising communications, but such ideas had not really been used for initiatives related to corporate business activities and management policies.

Yoshikawa: As you said, we talk endlessly about this topic, even over drinks at the pub.

Kobuse: We refer to this approach as creative initiatives, and I thought we’d end up talking about their potential today as well. Perhaps you would like to start by explaining Isehan’s recruitment campaign.

The origins of Isehan’s recruitment campaign

Yoshikawa: The recruitment campaign was not about hiring job applicants based on their appearance (as suggested by the kanji characters used in the Japanese name of the campaign). Instead, it was about having job applicants present their true selves and come to the job interview wearing the clothes and makeup style they personally like. Female job applicants in Japan are expected to follow a standardized look, specifically black hair and light makeup. In contrast, Isehan wanted to invite job applicants regardless of their appearance, and encourage them to wear whatever clothes they like and choose their own style of makeup, even heavy makeup or no makeup at all. In the application process, candidates were asked to include a photo that expresses who they truly are, and to talk about themselves using the photo. It was also possible to apply for a job via the Instagram photo sharing service.

Kobuse: How did you originally come up with that idea for a recruitment campaign?

Yoshikawa: Actually, in the beginning my thoughts were not focused on a recruitment campaign, but it eventually came to me as I learned about the concept of Isehan’s brand.

Yoshikawa: Isehan’s brand message is about people accepting and respecting who they are, so based on that I thought of ways to clearly express that to the public. Isehan wanted to widely promote the fact that it is a long-established company with a rich history of innovation. For instance, it produced the first personal makeup shelf in Japan, and was also the first makeup company featured in a color newspaper ad.

Yoshikawa: Right around the time of the project, there was a public debate in Japan about what kind of makeup styles were appropriate and inappropriate for women. It was then that we wanted to send Isehan’s message that makeup is a matter of personal expression—inappropriateness was not an issue. Nevertheless, rather than producing a conventional advertisement, we looked for ways to generate more discussion among the public. Finally, the company decided to change its employee recruitment policy and launch the recruitment campaign.

Kobuse: The response to the campaign was actually quite impressive.

Yoshikawa: Yahoo Japan featured the campaign on its Yahoo Topics website on the morning it was launched. Then commercial and public broadcasters reported on it from the next day onward. After that, the campaign was regularly covered by promotional media outlets, so news of the initiative spread rapidly. In the end, we were able to clearly send the message that Isehan had most wanted to convey through the campaign: people should accept and respect who they are.

The abilities of ad creators can make corporate campaigns newsworthy

Kobuse: The project I was involved in for Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters Baseball Club was intended to recruit mid-careers employees for the construction of a new baseball stadium (tentatively named Hokkaido Ballpark) to replace Sapporo Dome. If details of the job openings were simply advertised on employment websites, they would only be seen by people interested in the jobs related to sports. The company wanted a broader range of people to know about the employment opportunities because the project not only involves its baseball team but also includes urban development.

The tool created for persuading families to move to Hokkaido to work for Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters Baseball Club

Kobuse: Nevertheless, people from other parts of the country would need to move to Hokkaido if they decide to take a job. The obstacle they tend to face, however, is convincing their family to move there. Therefore, I thought it would be helpful to have a tool for persuading the members of their family. Starting from that idea, we created a PowerPoint presentation to highlight the merits of the jobs and the benefits of living in Hokkaido, and made it customizable and available for download. News outlets reported on the company’s earnest plan to persuade families to move, noting the uniqueness of the initiative itself. Now, news about the mid-career job opportunities is expected to spread.

Kobuse: The company’s baseball team has a loyal fan base, and those fans follow all the news about the team. By providing them with the job information first, I thought we would be able to spread the news from the outset. Actually, over 5,000 people applied for the jobs, so I think that our tool reached more job candidates than conventional mid-career job ads.

Yoshikawa: Isehan’s campaign was also more effective than employment ads, with about double the awareness of Isehan as usual. By applying advertising ideas in these companies’ recruitment campaigns, we created new and topical corporate initiatives, which are more likely to be picked up by the mass media. As a result, the companies increased their presence and improved their brand image.

Advertising creators are now expected to do more than decide on what to say and how to say it

Kobuse: Today, anyone can post things on social media, so society is inundated with content promoting sundry messages and points of view. We can even say that such content is being commoditized. As an advertising creator, I must place a lot of importance on the content and messaging aspect of a project. On the other hand, in the campaign I talked about, I was focusing on the execution aspect of the project. Because the initiative was based on real substance, it reached out to a lot of people.

Yoshikawa: A recruitment campaign by Euglena Co., Ltd., for chief future officers up to the age of 18 is also another example of how creative ideas in advertising are being applied in corporate initiatives. A younger coworker who sits in front of me at work was very involved in that campaign, which created a real buzz.

Euglena’s recruitment campaign for chief future officers up to the age of 18

Yoshikawa: If we consider this approach from a broader perspective, all advertising communications can be roughly divided into image-driven and reality-driven communications. The former involves presenting messages through images and video. The latter is about portraying reality, like the style of a documentary. The creative initiatives that we have been talking about are more about creating things that people actually become involved in.

Kobuse: That is another thing the two of us have been talking about. When we were out having drinks together not too long ago, we tried hard to classify various advertisements according to those two categories.

Yoshikawa: Yes, we have been discussing that. If we had an app that would allow us to swipe a series of ads and choose which category they fall under, like a dating app, we would be using it all the time!

Kobuse: You came up with that perspective when we were working together on a campaign for Lotte Holdings Co., Ltd., which is a major confectionary company in Japan. The campaign promoted the Soh brand of ice cream products that came with specially shaped spoons for drawing pictures on the ice cream. That campaign integrated a reality-driven approach.

Yoshikawa: An idea for enjoying the product in a new way was integrated into the advertising message. Based on that experience, I thought this approach could also be applied to the previous stages of corporate advertising.

Ad creators can play a role in a company’s brand purpose and brand actions

Kobuse: Through my experience as a judge at the Cannes Lions Festival, I noticed something interesting about marketing projects and campaigns around the world: nowadays, ad concepts do not come from communications; instead, such concepts originate from so-called “brand actions.” We should start by thinking about what kind of brand action can embody the brand purpose, meaning the objectives and significance of a company and its brand. Once a unique brand action is created, it can then be embedded in the communications. Today, communications in particular are becoming more and more operational due to the application of digital technology. For precisely that reason, I think brand actions will require a high degree of creativity from now on.

Three stages of advertising

Yoshikawa: Up until now, advertising creators have been responsible for communications. In other words, they have been applying ideas for what companies want to say and how they should say it.

Kobuse: Yes, that’s right. In the projects we talked about today, however, the previous stage of what a company should do—that is, the brand action—was also considered. The examples we discussed demonstrate how creativity can be applied not only in communications but also in that previous stage. That opens up possibilities for creative initiatives.

Yoshikawa: The techniques of advertising creators can be used to create initiatives that resonate in society. I think that expertise sets us apart.

Kobuse: I believe one of the advantages that ad creators can offer in the future is their ability to develop unique initiatives with an understanding of what excites people, what becomes newsworthy, and what gets reposted on social media. I would certainly like to be involved in more projects like that.


Noritaka Kobuse / Group Creative Director / Creative Planning Division 3

Noritaka Kobuse

Group Creative Director
Creative Planning Division 3

Junta Yoshikawa / Communication Planner / Creative Planning Division 2

Junta Yoshikawa

Communication Planner
Creative Planning Division 2

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