Conducting the Orchestra with Kentaro Kimura

Jun. 13, 2024
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Originally published on Little Black Book

Hakuhodo’s international CCO and president of the Digital Craft Jury at Cannes 2024, on why advertising is like conducting an orchestra

Kentaro Kimura, Hakuhodo’s international chief creative officer, will for the first time preside over the Digital Craft Jury at the 2024 Cannes Lions Festival.

As president of the Digital Craft Jury, the transformative potential of advertising in addressing societal challenges is never far from Kentaro’s mind. The Digital Craft Jury champions excellence in digital creativity, pushing boundaries with technology to enhance brand storytelling and engagement.

Speaking to LBB’s Tom Loudon, Kentaro discusses the innovative use of digital technologies, the impactful role of humour in digital craft, and the influence of his musical background on his creative approach. He examines the role of an advertiser like a conductor in an orchestra, fostering collaboration among diverse stakeholders to address societal challenges, emphasising the importance of creativity in bringing together varied interests.

He also highlights the potential of humour in digital craft, noting its deep connection to culture and emotions, and draws parallels between music and digital craft, highlighting the blend of art and science in both fields.


LBB> Your work often intersects with social causes and humanitarian efforts. How do you see the role of advertising evolving in addressing societal challenges and driving positive change?

Kentaro> The social issues we face today are complex and difficult to solve by one company alone.

But we can make things happen when governments, brands, diverse professionals, and people get together and collaborate on the same goal. Collaborating with others is the way to go. Advertising can bring together and motivate stakeholders with diverse interests, and assemble them like a symphony orchestra to perform beautiful harmony.

I believe the advertising agency’s new role is serving as a conductor of this orchestra.

Moreover, our creativity can build a profitable business scheme to make this harmony scalable and long-lasting.

LBB> What are the current big debates in the Digital Craft category, or more generally across the industry, that you expect to see come through in the jury room?

Kentaro> We have diverse digital technology tools like Gen AI, machine learning, data creative, AR, VR, etc. But this category is not just the art of beautiful craft using tech. Innovative Digital Craft is always born to bring transformative and challenging ideas to life. And we believe that’s what will move the brand and our industry forward. In the judging process, we hope to search for such strong aspirations and to discuss new possibilities for technology and creativity.

LBB> Humour is the big new ‘culture and context’ subcategory this year. How do you think comedy could be better leveraged, specifically in the Digital Craft category?

Kentaro> Humour is an energy deeply connected to the culture, pain, and insight of local people and appeals to their emotions in a positive way. Craft ultimately brings the brand’s intentions and ideas to fruition at the point of contact with the sei-katsu-sha. If you think about it, these two things might go well together. I look forward to seeing work in which the positive power of humour is boosted by digital craft.

LBB> Outside the jury room, what are you really looking forward to learning or doing at this year’s Cannes Lions?

Kentaro> I believe Cannes Lions is a place that brings about four things: Motivation, Curation, Reputation, and Relation. I am looking forward to gaining strong motivation to do this kind of work next, curating a variety of inspiration by being showered with a large number of case studies from around the world, enhancing the reputation of individuals and companies by winning awards and presenting and giving seminars at creative festivals, and getting to know and reunite with colleagues involved in the creative industry from all over the world while toasting with rosé wine, and deepening relationships.

LBB> How has your experience as a musician influenced your approach to creativity within the advertising industry, specifically in relation to Digital Craft?

Kentaro> Music is an emotion created by science and craft. In other words, the scientific laws of chords, melody, and structure that produce pleasure and emotion deliver colourful emotions to the listener through the performer’s playing technique and the craft of improvisation. I think that has something in common with our approach to digital craft.

LBB> As someone deeply involved in creativity and corporate leadership, how do you balance innovative thinking with the practical demands of running a successful agency?

Kentaro> Growth consists of both change and continuity. It is extremely important to think in terms of creating and executing innovative actions that stay ahead of changes in the times, environment, and technology, but at the same time, I believe it is also important to operate it properly and continuously, ingraining it as a system and culture within the organisation and making it a routine.

LBB> Reflecting on your career journey, what advice would you give to aspiring advertising professionals looking to make a meaningful impact in the industry?

Kentaro> I think it’s important to clearly understand what you want to achieve on both an individual and societal level. For example, as an individual, I want to create advertisements that will inspire people worldwide, and as a society, I want to create a place where everyone can be open-minded and understand each other. I believe that these two aspirations drive my career capabilities and motivation. If you have a strong desire, the skills will follow. Furthermore, if you live according to your aspirations, you will be able to pursue a career where you lay your own tracks rather than walking on tracks laid out by someone else.

LBB> Amid the increasing emphasis on digital technology, how do you see traditional advertising methods evolving to remain relevant in today’s landscape?

Kentaro> Photoshop has revolutionised graphic production, smartphones have revolutionised expression formats, and social media has improved advertising efficiency to reach targets. Similarly, AI, machine learning and data technologies will advance traditional advertising methods. I think that in the next stage, the key to evolution will be how these technologies are customised to suit each industry and challenge.

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