The Hakuhodo Group has given seminars at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity since 2013. For this year’s seminar, entitled “The Harmony Theory—From Competition to Orchestration,” Hakuhodo Inc. Corporate Officer and Hakuhodo International Chief Creative Officer Kentaro Kimura spoke on how the advertising industry should evolve in the post-pandemic world. Here is what he had to say.
Date: June 24, 2022
Topic: The Harmony Theory—From Competition to Orchestration
Speaker: Kentaro Kimura, Corporate Officer, Hakuhodo, Inc. and Chief Creative Officer, Hakuhodo International
Today I’d like to talk about where the advertising industry will go in the post-Covid era and what role it will play.
The battle against COVID-19 has taught us a lot, and it’s dramatically changed our lives. What with lockdowns, remote working, and social distancing, the pandemic has divided us. But at the same time, it’s united us. People have all come together to fight a common enemy. Campaigns to cheer on healthcare workers have swept country after country.
We now, surely, have a stronger awareness of our own society and community than before the pandemic. European psychologist Alfred Adler termed this “community feeling.” Connecting with others is now far more important than ever to achieving a sense of happiness.
How then has the advertising industry changed?
Until the pandemic struck, competition was the key motivator of the industry. Brands were all trying to differentiate themselves and beat each other. And the main proponent of this theory was the advertising industry itself. However, the competitive principle that has dominated the industry for years is being supplanted by another because of the social shift driven by Covid. We have entered an era of orchestration, where people, brands, and even industries create new value by bringing their strengths together. “Creating Harmony” is the new motivator driving the industry. Merging the strengths of individual stakeholders into a single powerful whole is what really matters these days.
The question is, what is our role as an advertising agency in the new era?
The answer is: to become a conductor. Every orchestra has a conductor. Great harmonies cannot be generated without one. The agency will play the important role of conductor in the new era of harmony.
So how exactly can we go about creating harmony? Today I’ll describe three ways of doing so: CoCreate, ReDiscover, and CoExperience.
The Covid pandemic led schools to shut down all over the globe. All kinds of school events got canceled, which was particularly sad. One of my fondest memories is of our school festival. The reason? Because the school festival was a chance to make something with friends—in other words, to CoCreate.
In Spain, competing beer brands teamed up and ran a joint campaign in support of bars and restaurants unable to open because of the pandemic. Such a thing was unheard of before Covid. Actions like this arose spontaneously in many countries and came to the rescue of bars and restaurants.
What instances like these tell us is that CoCreation reminds people of the happiness of belonging. That may mean belonging to the school they attend, their favorite bar, the community or country where they live, or Planet Earth itself.
As an example epitomizing CoCreation, I’ll take you through the case of shibuya good pass, which achieved harmony between different stakeholders.
What image do you have of Shibuya? It’s one of the most attractive urban districts in the world, but for a long time it was, for some reason, perceived as kind of aloof. It was seen as somebody else’s community. How could Shibuya evolve into somewhere people could call home, raise children, and start a new business? That required creating a new, more sustainable Shibuya better suited to the era of harmony.
The solution was “shibuya good pass,” an urban development service CoCreated by local citizens and inspired by the concept of “Building a better Shibuya together.”
Hakuhodo and the shibuya good pass team developed the vision of a “Sei-katsu-sha Driven Smart City.” “Sei-katsu-sha” is the term Hakuhodo uses to describe people as fully rounded individuals with their own lifestyles, aspirations and dreams. The project brought together people with a connection to Shibuya—people who live, work, or do business there, as well as the local government and other stakeholders—in a collective effort to make it a better place to be. Specifically, a wide array of new services was developed in response to the wants of people living in and around Shibuya.
For example, “shibuya good mobi” is a ride-sharing service that allows users to take as many rides as they like within a specified area for a fixed monthly fee. Users can hail rides using a smartphone app depending on their needs.
“shibuya good energy” is a green energy service that lets anyone jointly purchase electricity generated from eco-friendly natural energy sources. The more people join, the lower the electricity bill.
“shibuya good place” is a service that provides workplaces in tune with new workstyles. It was developed in response to sei-katsu-sha’s wants, in view of the significant changes in the way we work brought about by the pandemic.
Hakuhodo played the role of conductor. It created an eco-system for bringing together people living in and around Shibuya, surveying the needs of sei-katsu-sha, collecting feedback, and turning the results into projects. Today shibuya good pass has evolved into a platform on which people can gather, interact, and initiate new projects both large and small. It enables everyone around Shibuya to join in community-building activities.
Coordinating stakeholders who have different interests is a tough task. But by empowering each player and generating emotional commitment to the project, you can create the momentum to achieve something truly groundbreaking.
During the pandemic I often took walks in my neighborhood. In the process I rediscovered some wonderful places near where I live. I also started watching lots of movies on a streaming service. On several occasions I came across a movie I’d seen before and watched it again. And every time, I discovered something new. Ah, so that’s what was going on, I would realize.
I imagine you’ve all had similar experiences. Serendipity enriches our daily lives. You realize that happiness is actually all around you. We call this the “happiness of chance encounters.”
As a case study of how to generate harmony through rediscovery, let me describe the “Find my Tokyo. BOX!” campaign.
This project was undertaken by Hakuhodo in partnership with Tokyo Metro Co., Ltd. It evolved the “Find my Tokyo.” advertising campaign, which had been running for years, into a new business platform. After Japan declared a state of emergency, subway ridership plummeted and the number of people visiting neighborhoods along the subway line fell, so subway ad revenues fell as well. The existing advertising campaign was a series of vignettes showcasing individual shops and restaurants located along the subway line. The project team extended that framework by putting together a new service delivering the in-store experience via e-commerce.
The great thing about this project is the way it successfully turned the advertising production process into an e-commerce development process. The project team had for years been rediscovering the things people along the subway line really wanted to buy. That, I think, is what worked so well as a creative element both in the TV commercial and in the online store.
To recap, instead of promoting shops and restaurants located along the Tokyo Metro line individually, we rediscovered what value they have in common as a collective. Then we elevated that into a new concept.
Alongside CoCreation and ReDiscovery, the third approach to creating harmony is CoExperience.
Among the things the pandemic stopped us from doing was going to live concerts, where large numbers gather to experience the same excitement. Live music places couldn’t open for business, and musicians found themselves with nowhere to perform.
Against that backdrop, the Travis Scott concert on Fortnite attracted an audience of 12 million. It was an impressive event that suggests what the future of the metaverse holds. It transformed what was ordinarily a gaming platform into a stage where people could share in a musical experience with their peers.
This example demonstrates how genuinely CoExperiencing something live, even in cyberspace, enhances the emotional thrill. Live concerts foster a sense of togetherness. People derive happiness from resonating with others. It fulfills a basic human desire that everyone has.
To illustrate what CoExperience is about, I’ll go through another example of achieving harmony with the audience by delivering a groundbreaking, soul-stirring experience.
People were longing for music content that could be experienced raw. And there was a desperate need for a place to connect artists and music fans during the pandemic. An inspiring musical experience that reconnected artists and music fans was created by producing unfiltered, unrehearsed content that had been stripped down to the bare essentials to make the music itself stand out.
This musical content has now evolved into a new creative forum watched by people around the world. It’s more than just advertising. It’s a cultural phenomenon.
This is a case of successfully creating a new digital CoExperience that truly resonates with viewers. The listener is mesmerized by the unadorned staging, the rhythm of the artist’s breathing, their emotional state, and even any imperfections in their performance. And that creates an emotional bond.
I’ve shared three approaches to creating harmony. In each case the agency plays the role of the conductor who orchestrates the harmony.
Some cases, such as shibuya good pass, involve harmonizing many different stakeholders like companies, ordinary citizens, and local governments. Some cases, such as Find my Tokyo. BOX!, involve harmonizing individual shops and restaurants. And other cases, such as the third one we examined, the musical content, involve achieving harmony with the audience.
But is that all? No, it isn’t. There is a hidden spice for creating the perfect harmony that can never be ignored. That is Humanity. Humanity has an unrivaled power to unite, empower, and motivate people. And it has always revolved around understanding people’s fundamental desires—in other words, the Hakuhodo philosophy of Sei-katsu-sha Insight.
In the first case, understanding the love everyone has for the community they live in—in other words, the happiness of belonging—was the main driving force that made it happen.
In the second case, understanding that, by human nature, what people really want is in fact just a stone’s throw away—the happiness of chance encounters. And this was the driving force that made it a success.
In the last case, the key was the desire of sei-katsu-sha to share the same exciting experience with other people. In other words, the happiness of resonation was the main driving force that made it an inspiring experience.
What made all these cases possible was the fact we’re a company that focuses on the sei-katsu-sha perspective and human happiness. We’re not business-centric in our thinking.
To reiterate, the theory of competition that has dominated the advertising industry for years is, because of Covid, giving way to another: the orchestration of humanity. And the most beautiful thing about harmony is that it goes on and on and on until the conductor stops waving the baton. So we intend to keep on creating harmonies by applying all three approaches: CoCreation, ReDiscovery, and CoExperience. We want to be the industry trendsetter.