The leading luminary at this year’s ADFEST is Rei Inamoto, who served as Grand Jury President and the President of Interactive and Mobile categories. Named in Creativity Magazine’s annual “Creativity 50” as well as one of “the Top 25 Most Creative People in Advertising” by Forbes Magazine, Rei Inamoto is one of the most influential individuals in the marketing and creative industry today. Born in Japan, Rei moved to the United States as a sixteen year old. He has been with AKQA, where he is now Chief Creative Officer, for over 10 years of the agency’s 20 year history overseeing work that has powered its ballistic ascent. We sat down with him on the final day of the festival.
How did you get your start at AKQA?
When I joined AKQA I didn’t even know AKQA. Nobody knew AKQA. Ten years ago we were about 250-275 people globally split between three offices: San Francisco, London and Washington DC. I joined to open the New York office, and since then we’re up to 14 offices and 1,800, 1,900 people.
Why did you want to come to ADFEST?
The first thing that comes to my mind is to help make Asia become the global powerhouse that it should be. The nice side of events like this is to celebrate work, to meet people, all those kinds of things but for me, because of my heritage, I would like to see Japan and Asia be a formidable powerhouse in the world. I’d like to be able to mentor and give back to the Asian community, for people to see somebody like me and pass on the torch to work on the international stage, not just on a local level.
It’s especially impressive when people succeed in different countries, speaking different languages, in the creative industries, which depend so much on communication.
Before AKQA I was at R/GA. About two months into my time there the Creative Director who hired me left. I’m like holy shit — I joined partially because I was so impressed by this guy. Because I became, at a very young age, one of the senior creatives, I was presenting work to clients and I had a lot of trouble because English isn’t my first language. I thought instead of trying to overcomplicate what I say in English, let me just say what I can understand. That, in hindsight, became a way for me to explain things in simple terms, to boil down to the bare essentials. Can you explain things in 200 words, or three words or five words. Indirectly, that became my mental training to reduce and simplify.
Living in China, I use a VPN to access Youtube, which diverts my web traffic through Japan. That means I see Japanese commercials, and there’s a trend of these incredible TVCs, resembling Rube Goldberg machines that really capture the imagination. To my tastes, it seems Japan is already doing some of the best work in the world.
This is one thing I like and dislike about the American point of view. The Americans have on one side a very confident view of themselves and their country and they almost assume, naively, that they are the leader of the world. In Asia it’s the opposite; there’s a lack of confidence, or to put it in a good way, Asian people are humble and respectful. This is my first time in Thailand but people are so hospitable and so respectful — the level of humility and respect is something you don’t find in Western culture.
That humility seems in marked contrast to Cannes Lions, which people often describe as exclusive and snobbish.
It’s much more laid back here, people are much more accessible, and people are taken care of. I was amazed by the fact there’s that big room with 100 tables so you can go there, hang out and meet people. In Cannes, even if you’re a judge, they don’t pay for your travel. They do pay for your hotel, but only when you’re judging. If you’ve finished judging, you’re on your own. Go away.June 2014. Future Lions Award Ceremony, founded by AKQA, 9 years ago, and is now a partnership between AKQA, Google and Cannes Lions.
You’ve written columns arguing that agencies now have to be product and service designers. But with the massive rewards that come from simple ideas these days, what’s to stop agencies working for themselves instead of brands?
It’s a possibility, whether it’s AKQA or anybody else, but the business model would have to change a little bit. Advertising and marketing has a very short attention span. Lets spend a hundred thousand dollars or a million dollars this quarter, let’s say, and I want to see a return on investment within a month or two. If you make a video and get a million views within a couple of weeks that’s great. When venture capitalists invest, they’re looking for the next billion dollar company in the next five to ten years.
Have you had ideas you thought were too good to give a client?
No, if I think it’s a good idea I’ll always present it to a client. Clients may not buy it, or if they buy it and we execute it, it may end up as a marketing campaign and not a product with longevity. But to be fair these are products that we’ve sold. We created this app called Nike Training Club, about four years ago to answer the question of if we could provide the most meaningful and compelling training via phone. Now Nike Training Club is an app, it’s a gym, it’s an event — it’s a lineup of things. It was never intended as a marketing stunt. It was providing a continuing service and the client was behind it to keep it alive for a long time.
Nike seems like a great client. Shanghai’s House of Mamba project — a light up basketball court that shows players to do drills as if they were with Kobe Bryant — is impressive. Is that project ongoing?
It was an eight week program where we auditioned and selected some of the most passionate basketballers from all over China. We chose 30 to bring to Shanghai to go to the House of Mamba, and then Nike flew three of them to the world championship game in Barcelona. It was about giving access to these kids who otherwise don’t have the facilities and the kind of training that players in the US have.
House of Mamba won the Grande prize here in the Interactive category, for which you were Jury President. Is it unusual for a judge to be on the panel that gives an award to his or her own company?
It is unusual, so I made sure to not only abstain but step out of the discussion. It went down to two winners, and it was a tie, so I said you guys need to keep discussing this. At that point House of Mamba became the unanimous winner.
You think it’s the best?
I’m biased, but it edged ahead. I asked the jury panel what’s the work that pushes the industry forward, and what actually contributes to people’s lives and society. When it came down to the gold winners, others were more or less a piece of advertising. One of the gold winners in Interactive was “Nike Cricket” — a beautiful film, really well done, but the end result was an ad, that was it. The way it was made was very, very interesting and very innovative — they crowd sourced players and their photos, but the end result was an ad. Another one was the I Touch Myself campaign. Beautiful, beautiful campaign, but that’s what it was: a campaign to build awareness. What did you do beyond that?
At the press conference yesterday you really emphasized that the awards shouldn’t all go to work that was made pro bono.
It’s aspirational to say that every work should be for the social good or give something back. But if you’re doing something for charity you should be passionate about that cause. Whether to enter it for awards or not should be a secondary or tertiary question. We are professionals, we get paid for our creativity, we get paid for our strategic thinking, we get paid for the work we produce. Otherwise we are diminishing the importance of our profession. If we can do a ten million dollar campaign for free, why should a client pay 100,000 dollars?
As a journalist that rings true. You make all your content free and then what’s left?
There are amateur athletes and professional athletes. Amateur athletes and professional athletes play the game they play, whether it’s baseball or basketball or whatever, for the love of that sport. But the reason why they are professional is because they’re so damn good that people pay them to perform. To me it’s as simple as that.
今年亚太广告节上最耀眼的人物无疑是担任评审团主席和交互及移动类的评委Rei Inamoto（稻本零）。他入选过《创意》杂志的“年度创意50”、又入选《福布斯》杂志“最富创意的25个广告人”的榜单，是当今营销与创意产业领域最具影响力的人物之一 。Rei Inamoto出生在日本，16岁时移居美国。在成立仅有20年左右的AKQA里他的工龄却超过了10年，现任AKQK的全球创意总监。他见证了公司火箭般的发展和扩张。在泰国举行的亚太广告节上，SHP+很荣幸地与这位著名的创意人做了个采访。
>>> 在中国，我必须用VPN翻墙到日本的网路才可以 上YouTube。在我看到的日本广告里，有相当一部分的广告就像鲁布·戈德堡（Rube Goldberg） 的装备一样，充满了幻想。我认为日本已经创作出一批世界上最优秀的作品。
>>> 这此“曼巴之屋”赢得了交互类大奖，而你恰好是这个奖项的评审团主席。 这种做法否有些不太正常呢？
世界上有业余运动员和专业运动员之分。无论业余还是专业，无论是打棒球还是篮球，还是其他运动，都是出于对这项运动的热爱。但专业选手之所以成为专业选手， 是因为他们的表现特别顶尖，人们才愿意付钱去看他们。对我来说，道理就这么简单 。