Tap Project Japan: Applying creativity to a global challenge

Mar. 19, 2018
  • Viewpoints
  • CSR

Social action at Hakuhodo DY Group

Hakuhodo DY Group’s corporate social responsibility (CSR) programs are rooted in a dedication to bringing new forms of happiness to people and society. This series of interviews features Hakuhodo people who actively apply their creativity, communication skills, and personal talents to tackling social issues beyond the office, with the goal of building a society where everyone can live a fulfilling life true to themselves.

Tap Project Japan: Applying creativity to a global challenge

The Tap Project Japan is an initiative by Hakuhodo DY Group volunteers and the Japan Committee for UNICEF to provide clean, safe water to the world’s children. Launched in 2009, the project collects donations at restaurants and cafes and each year organizes a variety of activities to educate people about water and raise donations. The money raised go towards supporting children in the southeast African island nation of Madagascar who have no access to clean, safe water. To date the initiative has funded 45 wells and water supply facilities and 169 latrines in 48 Madagascan primary schools (as of March 2017, including derivative projects and direct donations by individuals).

Besides being the 6th of the SDGs, clean water and sanitation affect a host of other issues

Hitomi Yokoyama (right) of Hakuhodo, who coordinated the volunteer team as project leader for FY2017, and Kohei Futakuchi of Hakuhodo i-studio, who was in charge of planning digital games, directing screen art, and sound direction

The Tap Project Japan is inspired by the vision of solving social challenges through the power of design, and each year a variety of activities are held to educate people about water and raise donations. I’ve had great fun over the past few years giving shape to ideas for the project with the man who started it in Japan, Kazufumi Nagai, president of Hakuhodo Design, and here I am taking part again for the fifth time.

I’d always been interested in working on social issues, so the vision behind the Tap Project had long intrigued me. I joined the project four years ago. In Madagascar, which the project supports, only half the population, and one in three rural inhabitants, have access to basic drinking water. To obtain clean, safe water, children have to bring it from miles away each day, which leads to further problems like depriving them of opportunities to grow and learn.

Besides being the sixth of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), clean water and sanitation affect a host of other social issues like education and women’s rights. Something new we did during the Tap Project this year was, instead of focusing solely on the problem of water, expanding our horizons to embrace other social issues that arise from it.

The project’s feature event for the year, Road to Water, was designed to get people who live in Japan interested in the multitude of issues surrounding water. Visitors were given a bucket-shaped device fitted with a sensor so they could virtually experience for themselves just how hard it is for Madagascan children to fetch water. There was also a panel exhibit on the theme of “Water and X,” which examined the water question from different angles, and a magazine produced specially for the event was handed out.

Left: Tap Magazine, which was handed out at the Road to Water event.
Center and right: Visitors at the event. The event ran for four days, Monday, August 21-Thursday, August 24, 2017, at Daikanyama T-Site Garden Gallery in Tokyo. For details see:
The event featured exhibits on water-related issues directly affecting Madagascan children and the role of water in our daily lives. There was also a reconstruction of an actual well like those dug at Madagascan elementary schools with funding from the project. For details see:
https://www.tapproject.jp/news/magazine2017/#part1 (in Japanese)

85 Hakuhodo DY volunteers came together to make the project happen

The Tap Project is a social action program conducted each year by a team of volunteers. Well, this year 85 people signed up! They’re from many different job backgrounds: account service, strategic planning, interactive, PR, media marketing, promotion, creative, and engineering. Right now I work as a marketing planner in the fields of brand strategy and product development, and this has been a great experience for me in that it taught me the nuts and bolts of team management and facilitation.

On the final day of the event: representatives of the Japan Committee for UNICEF, student volunteers, and Hakuhodo DY Group volunteers

Hakuhodo DY people possessing different specialties and aptitudes made this project happen by engaging with people from other job backgrounds and combining digital and offline. That process was a new adventure for me. The old division of labor can no longer be taken for granted these days. The advertising industry is now in an era when creating things is an integrative process. In that context this was a great opportunity for me to ponder how to approach the task of creation from now on.

Right from when we started brainstorming together, what we had in mind wasn’t so much directly showing the plight of Madagascan children as creating an experience that would instill adults and children alike with a spontaneous desire to help Madagascans. I think it takes a place like Hakuhodo DY Group with its wealth of expertise and talent to pull off positive forms of CSR like that.

Activating people is, I believe, one of the strengths of an advertising agency. By leveraging the power of creativity, we aimed to come up with a systematic way to make people spontaneously aware of the issue and hit their emotional button. This year I think we’ve succeeded in harnessing our ability to tell a story and thus inspire action to solving social issues.

A desire to do society good while achieving personal growth—and having fun

It’s okay in my opinion if your motive for social action is trivial, like thinking maybe you can bring a modicum of happiness to the people around you, and the world at large, by doing something you’re good at or something you love. Even if the goal is difficult to achieve or you don’t have enough time because you’ve got a job to do as well, you’ll still be able to work away enthusiastically on the project as long as you have fun doing it. If that’s how lots of people feel, it should be possible to create some kind of movement that impacts society as a whole for the better. What motivated us more than anything else during this project was being able to achieve personal growth while having fun.

All of us are dedicated to the same goal, and I feel that together we’ve gotten traction in creating a potential new way to bring happiness to society. Our efforts to date will hopefully give more people the opportunity to think about the problems facing the world and what form CSR should take in the future.

Hitomi Yokoyama
Hitomi Yokoyama, who has previous experience in corporate advertising and promotions, now formulates marketing strategy for products and services in a wide range of industries.
Kohei Futakuchi
Kohei Futakuchi specializes in design and art direction, especially in the interactive field. He is currently with User Experience Design.
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