This week we’ve been graced with the presence of Blake Harrop, the MD of our Japanese cousins W+K Tokyo. Accompanied by mountains of pizza and a presentation featuring heart-shaped watermelons, Blake spent Tuesday lunchtime enlightening us on life and work at the 40-strong Nakameguro office.
Speaking to the challenges faced by an independent, creatively-led agency in the Japanese advertising industry – a market driven by media reach and celebrity endorsement – Blake illustrated how W+K Tokyo have given their clients distinctive voices amidst highly traditional arenas.
We caught up with him briefly afterwards.
How would you describe the culture of the W+K Tokyo office?
The culture is the thing that is most similar between the Tokyo & London W+K offices. In Tokyo the layout and design of the office is different, the client list is different, but the vibe you get from a group of people trying to create the best creative work of their lives is very similar to London. The smaller size of Tokyo makes it feel very tight-knit, like a family where everyone is the strange uncle or aunt.
What’s the secret to creating work that resonates universally whilst still respecting cultural distinctions?
I think it’s important to set out with that as your explicit intention. This transcends the brief – we’re always starting from a place of love and respect for Japanese culture, and always want to create the most interesting work. At the end of the day though in any culture, I think great work comes down to being honest, interesting and nice. The Nike Baseball spot we created last year was a good example of that.
Can you recommend a good book, blog or documentary for those keen to know more about the creative advertising industry in Japan?
For books, I’d recommend "Beauty and Sadness" by Yasunari Kawabata (won the Nobel prize in 1968) and for something more contemporary, “Norwegian Wood” by Haruki Murakami. For blogs, there aren’t many that cover the ad industry, but for creativity & culture Spoon & Tamago is great.
As for documentaries, it’s well-known already, but for a good reason: Jiro Dreams of Sushi. Really wonderful journey into the mind of the shokunin (craftsman).