Hakuhodo has been training global personnel by sending Tokyo headquarters staff to Group offices around the world each year to work with local staff for three months. In 2019, two staff were sent to China and Malaysia from October to December. Here, Strategic Planning Director Yuki Kusuda reports on his experience of training in Shanghai.
I worked at Shanghai Hakuhodo Advertising Co., Ltd. for three months from October to December 2019 as part of an international OJT program. Assigned to the department responsible for marketing, I was involved in all kinds of work. It was my first ever visit to China, and with little time to prepare before starting my assignment, I planted myself in Shanghai leaving it all to chance. It turned out to be a really stimulating and fulfilling three months.
Instead of stewing over it, just do something: the thing I felt most keenly during my training was the importance of this. In Japan, life tends to pass by as you try to keep up with work and everyday life, but once I was “in Shanghai” and away from my everyday life, I noticed a lot of things, and each of those was another challenge to be overcome.
One thing in everyday life where China is much more advanced than Japan is cashless payment (smartphone payment). Even local eateries and street hawkers, where you wouldn’t think you could go cashless, are all able to accept cashless payment, all over Shanghai. It was truly convenient and futuristic. At coffee and tea shops, if you order in advance by smartphone, you’ll get a notice when your order is ready and can go and collect it (they’ll deliver it, too). So not only is it cashless, but also wait time-less. Even taxis and cheap and easy share cycles could be used without cash, which broadened how far I could roam. Lowering the language barrier as you don’t need language to use it, cashless payment was a huge help to me during my stay.
The marketing department to which I was assigned was a team of seven, excluding myself, and everyone looked to be working busily. I needed a whole slew of skills: aside from the work you would expect in marketing, I needed to be involved in account service-type roles, as well as activation, creative and all other aspects of proposals. As much as I felt the dynamism of the work, my skills and thinking were tested in so many ways.
Also, more so than when working in Japan, there were many new clients to develop, and some of the parties we were making proposals to included CEO-level people, which was a really valuable experience for me. Decisions were made quickly and instructions were clear, so it was easy to tell what I needed to do, making it clear how to move the work forward. By the same token, when the answer was no, I was told no in no uncertain terms.
When drawing up proposals within the team, the thing I struggled most with was my lack of knowledge of the situation in China and insights into Chinese sei-katsu-sha. With the language barrier on top of that, it was hard for me to even grasp where to begin the ideation process. Because of this, I faced problem after problem initially, but at some point, I started tentatively putting forward such simple-minded opinions and analysis as I was able to as someone unbound by preconceived ideas. I even put what were pretty much wild ideas on the table, and as I asked question after question, my local team mates responded in various ways and started giving me their thoughts. By making use of all the knowledge and sensibilities in me to create output time and again in this way, and with the support of my colleagues, I was able to help advance the project little by little while drawing out their ideas.
This experience made me feel once again (obvious though it may be) that the knowledge and sensibilities that I’ve honed over time contribute to improving the quality of a proposal and, as a result, can bring forth creative ideas that move people.
I realized again that a continuous cycle of constantly adding input every day and turning that into output is good training that will enable me to realize good planning, and it is this that will allow me to become the “integrated marketing professional that brings both creative and strategy” that I aspire to be.
My work in Shanghai took me back to basics, and provided a good opportunity to think about the path I want to take going forward. As I carry out my work here in Japan, I will take advantage of the things that I realized through this training, broaden my mind and work toward that path, pushing beyond my comfort zone without self-limits.