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Finding meaning in the muddle

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Published in City & Society (1997). An earlier version of the thinking in Creating Advertising in Japan (2000) with different cases.

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Finding meaning in the muddle

  1. 1. JOHN MCCREERY Sophia University Finding Meaning in the Muddle: Adapting Global Strategies to Advertising in Japan WHEN A JAPANESE advertising agency develops campaigns for multinational clients, cultures clash. Conflict, confusion and misunderstanding complicate the already complex processes involved in the production of advertising. Can anthropological theory illuminate what is going on? The answer is "Yes." Concepts of field, habitus and social drama developed by Pierre Bourdieu and Victor Turner do shed light on this highly fraught cross-cultural encounter. Only one critical element is missing: effective leadership. [Advertising, Japan, leadership, globalization, applied anthropology] WE LIVE IN A WORLD where advertising is pervasive. In this proposition, moreover, "world" has a literal referent. Advertising with its Siamese twin, popular culture,1 is one of the great shapers of the visible and material world of urban life worldwide. It is one of the core elements in the "contemporary culture of consumption" that, says John Sherry, requires both "sensitive anthropological investigation" and "anthropologically sensible intervention" (1995:3). Advertising is, in particular, one of the major sites of cultural intersection where human beings from different cultural backgrounds struggle over how to define and present, not only the objects in which they trade, but also, therefore, themselves (Appadurai 1990). These struggles can be especially fierce when multinational corporations develop advertising for "local" markets outside the countries in which their headquarters are located. Differences in language, cultural style and business paradigms complicate relationships already fraught with competing interests. A critical issue for the author of this essay, an anthropologist who has been involved in advertising for many years, is how to theorize these struggles from an anthropological perspective. It is also an issue with intensely personal and practical implications. 241
  2. 2. 242 City & Society The Anthropologist and the Adman I am an anthropologist who has worked for 13 years as a copywriter and creative director for Hakuhodo Incorporated, the second largest advertising agency in Japan. I am now a partner and principal in The Word Works, a company that supplies copywriting, translation and presentation support services to Hakuhodo and to other large Japanese and multinational organizations doing business in Japan. A large part of our business is helping our Japanese clients to sell their ideas for domestic advertising in Japan to multinational corporations. While working at Hakuhodo I found myself involved in pitches to Coca- Cola and to BMW. In both these instances, a Japanese advertising agency was asked to handle one of the world's most prestigious multinational brands. Differences in language, cultural style and paradigm aggravated the normally tense relationship between advertiser and agency. The struggles that ensued were indeed fierce. The question I pose here is this: Can anthropological theory contribute to our understanding of these two cases? Or, more generally, to our understanding of the processes involved in transforming global advertising strategies into advertising in Japan? In brief, my answer is, "Yes." I will argue that ideas takenfromthe work of Victor Turner and Pierre Bourdieu do shed light on what was going on in these two cases. In the shadows that remain, however, is a subject that anthropologists rarely touch—the importance of leadership. Coke and BMW Both Coca-Cola and BMW are multinationals with very strong, very clear ideas about their brands, which are, of course, among the world's most famous. In Japan, however, each faced a serious marketing problem. For Coca-Cola the problem was demographic. Worldwide, the primary consumers of soft drinks are teenagers. In Japan, where the birthrate has been falling continuously since the '70s and this year reached 1.43 (well below the 2.08 required for population replacement), the number of teenagers is falling. One strategy for maintaining sales is to use line extensions to appeal to older target segments. Our job was to launch Caffeine Free Diet Coke and appeal to diet and fashion-conscious women in their 20s and 30s. The commercials we produced feature a slim, sexy young woman wearing a red minidress who is busy shopping and trying on clothes. In the final cut she has changed into a white evening gown and meeting a tall handsome man in a black tuxedo. To make a long story short, the commercials seemed to work. The product enjoyed a tremendous shinhatsubai (new-on-sale) spike. The problem would be repeat sales. Japanese consumers
  3. 3. Advertising in Japan 243 still, it seems, do not like the taste of aspartame, the artificial sweetener used in Diet Coke. For BMW, the problem was image. During the '70s both BMW and its arch rival Mercedes had been seen as the ultimate in luxury cars, representing a standard far surpassing their Japanese competitors. During the late '80s, as the bubble economy expanded, BMW had introduced the 3-series, a compact, relatively inexpensive line that put owning a BMW within reach of many nouveaux-riche Japanese. With sales expanding rapidly, BMW had cut back on brand advertising, putting its money instead into expanding its dealer network and building a new corporate headquarters in Makuhari, a "21st century development project" located to the east of Tokyo in Chiba prefecture. When Hakuhodo entered the scene, the bubble had collapsed, sales were down, and the 3-series, now the prototypical BMW in the Japanese consumer's mind, had come to be regarded as "the Roppongi Corolla." Mercedes had retained its image-leader position. The prototypical Mercedes was the chauffeur-driven 600-series sedan favored by top executives at major Japanese corporations. Meanwhile, too, Japanese auto makers tempted by the bubble had launched their own luxury lines. Examples included the Toyota Lexus, Nissan Infiniti, and Honda Acura.2 BMW found itself behind its arch rival and increasingly only one of the pack of luxury car competitors. Mercedes had chosen Dentsu, Japan's largest agency, to manage its account in Japan. BMW had then turned to No. 2 Hakuhodo. The agency's problem was that while it had the account (and was thus earning media commissions), it had been unable for more than a year to sell any creative work to BMW Japan. I was put on a newly formed team whose mission was to turn this situation around. We tried, we sold a few ads. A few even won awards. A little over a year later, BMW Japan, whose sales had continued to deteriorate fired the president and marketing manager who had chosen Hakuhodo, and the agency lost the account. What to Make of These Cases? The immediate temptation is to focus on the ads created for these campaigns and to raise the question my Japanese colleagues at Hakuhodo almost inevitably raised when their multinational clients asked them to accept the clients' global strategies: Are the ideas in question sufficiently Japanese? Shouldn't they be replaced by ideas that are more Japanese in substance and flavor? The anthropologist in me notes the implicit appeal to nihonjinron, the nativist theory of Japaneseness that asserts the uniqueness of the Japanese race and its language and culture. The experienced adman notes more cynically that NIH (Not Invented Here) is the usual negative response of local agencies worldwide to global advertising campaigns. The appeal to inerradicable local difference salves the pride of local creatives who detest the idea of becoming
  4. 4. 244 City & Society mere translators of others' ideas. If effective, it also has the material advantage of generating work for them and their agencies to do—original work, which is, of course, more highly paid than adaptation. I note, too, that the anthropologist shares with the adman's clients a strong desire to know what works in Japan and to know in particular what sorts of imagery and appeals speak most movingly to authentically Japanese emotions. Unfortunately, there is no simple answer. For a sense of the scale and complexity of the research needed to articulate the range of possible answers, consider, for a moment, the following remarks from the July 1997 issue of Brain, one of Japan's leading trade publications for professionals in advertising and marketing. The issue reports the results of the 35th annual Tokyo Copywriters Club awards. Nakahata Takashi, who chaired the panel of judges, begins his report as follows: The total number of works submitted in the regular division was 4,198. Of these, 1,395, or 33.2%, passed the first round of screening. After the final screening, 738 remained in contention. There were more entries than in previous years, and the competition was fierce. Akiyama Sho, chairman of the Tokyo Copywriter's Club, comments on the shinjin (newcomer) awards. Advertising is not movies. Nor is it writing fiction. Advertising progresses by finding its own modes of expression. One has only 15 seconds in which to speak. The message must be spoken in a single line. Beneath its surface, however, is a huge intention, the product of planning, imagination, calculation. Advertising is only the visible peak of marketing. Thus, as a form of expression it is different from movies and fiction. It might be described as "saying through labor in the middle of the night things which cannot be said in the light of day." He continues with an inventory of the types of appeals a young copywriter might want to consider: Realistic. Psychological. Exciting. True. Humorous. Raw. Gentle. Nagging. Unexpected. Human. Artificial. Factual. Relaxed. Insightful Poisonous. Helpful. Playful. Despairing. Hopeful. Hilarious. Blind spots. Strange. Mathematical. Revealing. Lonely. Familiar. Manhattan. Each is a possible approach... (1997:33). We might also note that entries in this contest are divided into thirteen categories by industry. A. Liquor and tobacco
  5. 5. Advertising in Japan 245 B. Food and beverage C. Department stores, supermarkets, specialty stores, fabrics and fashions. D. Cosmetics, Pharmaceuticals, science, personal products E. Home electronics, AV equipment, computers, communications equipment, office equipment, telecommunications services. F. Precision machinery, production materials, housing and real estate. G. Shipping, transportation, tourism H. Automobiles, motorcycles, bicycles, motorboats, tires, gasoline, and other transportation related products and services I. Recreation, sports and sports equipment, events, concerts J. Financial institutions, insurance, government, education K. Mass media, publishing L. Naming, catalogs, pamphlets M. Others Professionals will note that a two-fold system of classification is at work here. This list is, on the one hand, a typology of sponsors with distinct communication needs and separate regulatory environments. Liquor and tobacco advertising is legally confined to messages to adults. Food and beverage advertising is often directed at teenagers or at housewives concerned about what they feed their families. This same list is, on the other hand, a typology of skills. Thus, for example, photographers who specialize in food or fashion are in very different businesses from those who are experts in automotive or sports photography. Copywriters who write in the high, serious tone preferred by financial institutions are a different breed altogether from those who use trendy slang to pitch soft drinks. Both may find themselves at sea if asked to write about high technology. Focussing on Process Avoiding, then, the siren call of symbolic analysis, I will throw us into the whirlpool of the everyday life of advertising. I will focus here on the process by which advertising is created in Japan and on the special problems that arise when a Japanese agency works with a multinational client. For anthropological inspiration I have turned to two authors whose similarities have, I think, been too much neglected: Victor Turner and Pierre Bourdieu. Both write with a clear awareness that conflict and contradiction are central components of human life. Both draw our attention to politically structured fields of human activity and to the processes that take place within them. Bourdieu's concept of habitus is an apt description of the dispositions that shape the behavior of actors involved in creating advertising. Turner's social drama provides a useful framework for describing what goes on.
  6. 6. 246 City & Society To Turner fields are "the abstract cultural domains where paradigms are formulated, established, and come into conflict" (1974:17). Bourdieu's field is more concrete, a bundle of relations that is both an objective distribution of power and material resources and the momentary configuration of persons within it as seen from their own phenomenological points of view. It is, in simpler terms, like a soccer field, which can either be seen objectively from the press box looking down or subjectively by the player s who feel themselves pulled here and there as the game develops (1992:17-20). Both authors draw our attention to processes in which there is genuine drama, both comedy and tragedy, and in which, moreover, actors are not mere automatons, acting out cultural rules. What, then, of habitus? In Bourdieu's formulation, "habitus consists of a set of historical relations 'deposited' within individual bodies in the form of mental and corporeal schematics of perception, appreciation, and action" (1992:16). Habitus is not a set of rules to be followed automatically. Nor is it a purely rational faculty that calculates every decision. It can be described as a set of dispositions invoked when the actors in a field find themselves in particular positions. Like soccer players racing for a ball while trying to keep track of both teammates and opponents, they must act on imperfect information and have no time for protracted calculations. The operations of habitus amount to a practical rationality in which there is room for mistakes as well as adaptive response to changing circumstances. In the case of advertising the knowledge brought into play is more a collection of rules-of-thumb than a systematic theory. The habitus in question always includes a good deal of habit along with clearly thought out ideas. In the endless search for novelty, flexibility is essential (McCreery 1995). Habitus suggests important truths about the ways in which people involved in advertising work. Turner's social drama provides the dynamic framework we need to understand the competitive presentation—the central and most dramatic of the games their work entails. The Presentation as Social Drama In Turner's formulation the social drama has four stages. It begins with a breach that disrupts everyday routines and calls into question the central moral principles on which social life depends. The breach leads to a mounting crisis during which the actors in the field take sides and line up with one or another group. The crisis evokes redressive action by those with a stake in keeping the breach from doing irreparable damage. The last stage is either reintegration or fission. The parallel steps in the world of advertising are orientation that starts a project, the mobilization and interaction of the staff who will carry it out, the
  7. 7. Advertising in Japan 247 moves to fix directions that occur as deadlines draw near, and, finally, the presentation itself. Strictly speaking, the summons to an orientation that starts a new project is not a breach of regular, norm-governed social relations.3 It is a normal step in the business transactions that link the agency and its client. Why then does it feel like a breach? The answer, I think, is simple: Each and every presentation is a crisis that may either strengthen or destroy that relationship. A relatively small and routine piece of business can be handled without great strain. The agency comes up with a few ideas, the client chooses one for implementation, relations between them continue to be smooth. The larger and more important the piece of business in question the stronger the feeling of crisis becomes. The worst situations are those in which the agency-client relationship has already soured to the point that the agency is forced to re-pitch the account in competition with other agencies. Account executives move back and forth between the agency and the client, testing the waters, trying to learn more about the client's desires, determining who the key people are who will have to be persuaded to let the project go ahead. If the situation is serious, senior people are brought into play, demonstrating the agency's commitment and opening the way for changes in staff or direction should these prove necessary. Here is where the multi-agency, multi-client situation that is common in Japan makes things somewhat different than they are in other parts of the world. Everything turns on the presentation. If it goes well, and the client buys one of the agency's ideas, it functions as a rite of reintegration, reaffirming the smooth running of the agency-client relationship. If it goes badly, it signals a genuine breach and the cycle repeats until either a solution is found or the breach becomes irreparable. Preparing a Presentation The process described here is the one with which I am familiar from working at Hakuhodo. My impression from talking with others involved in advertising in Japan is that it is, in fact, similar to what goes on in other Japanese agencies. This impression is confirmed by Brian Moeran's A Japanese Advertising Agency (1996), which describes in detail life at one of Hakuhodo's principal competitors. The curtain on the social drama goes up when the client speaks to the account executives in charge of his account and asks that the agency make a presentation. The project in question may be routine: the production of a leaflet. It may also be enormous. It would not be unusual for a major new product launch, combining TV with radio, print and promotions, to cost two or three billion yen (roughly speaking, 20 to 30 million U.S. dollars).4 The annual
  8. 8. 248 City & Society budgets for large accounts range into the hundreds of billions of yen, and when one of these is at stake the tension levels are high. The account executives will return to the agency and assemble a project team from the agency's marketing, creative, and promotion divisions. A large project may also involve staff from the PR and events divisions. If the project in question is part of a long-standing and smoothly running relationship, the team's members will already be assigned to the account. If what is at stake is a pitch for new business or an existing team has lost its credibility with the client, it may be necessary to form an entirely new team. Once the team is formed, its members are taken to an orientation meeting with the client. Here the client's representatives attempt to explain what they have in mind. Following the orientation, the team will meet to confirm what they think they have heard at the orientation, to develop a schedule and to start brainstorming. It will almost inevitably turn out that the different members of the team have heard or noticed different things. Everything that deconstructionist critics have said about the plasticity of texts and the multiplicity of possible readings applies in spades to this process. In the brainstorming phase, the members of different departments tend to work separately. Creatives will be working on ideas, the marketers on the marketing plan, the promotions and PR staff on their own separate projects. The account executives run from one group to another, trying to keep track of what is going on. They will also be talking to the client, pre-testing rough ideas in an effort to prevent the project team from heading off in what are plainly wrong directions. In the brainstorming phase the groups from the various departments may be internally fragmented, as individuals advance ideas and attempt to mobilize support for them. Younger people timidly offer suggestions. Older, more senior people bark, growl, brush them off and, then, sometimes, begin to smile. At Hakuhodo I have heard senior creatives say to their juniors, hitoban hyakuan (one night, a hundred proposals). The idea is that instead of struggling to come up with one or two good ideas, they should generate lots of ideas which can then be filtered by the group. Almost all will be rejected. The few that survive will be developed through further discussion, first within the creative group and then with the team as a whole. As deadlines draw near, the various groups involved in the project gather for whole-team meetings where everyone participating is present. These often become marathon sessions in which the various groups struggle to reach a consensus on which proposals to present and how to structure the presentation itself. It is frequently early in the wee hours of the morning on the day that the presentation is made that it all finally comes together. The team then staggers off red-eyed and adrenalin-hyped to present its work to the client. If the client buys what is offered, the day ends tired but happy. More often, however, the client says, "Well, maybe this...or that..." and it's back to another marathon session working on the revisions requested.
  9. 9. Advertising in Japan 249 Alternatively, the client who is seeing presentations from several competing agencies remains stone-faced. The team is left in high anxiety until word of a decision is received. This may take several weeks. Meanwhile there is other work to be done. (The members of a team rarely have the luxury of working for only a single client and always have other projects waiting.) Language, Culture and Aggravation Putting together a major presentation is social drama on a large scale. When all the parties involved are Japanese, there is still plenty of room for conflict and confusion. When, moreover, key personnel on the client side are non-Japanese the potential for muddle rises exponentially. Linguistic and cultural differences magnify misunderstandings. There may also be major differences in the business paradigms that the two sides bring to the table. The Japanese language is notoriously difficult for non-Japanese to learn, and non-Japanese executives rarely have time to learn it well. Even those who are able to conduct routine business conversations in Japanese may be baffled by the words produced by Japanese copywriters whose business it is, after all, to push the limits of the language in an effort to find something fresh to say. Typically, the Japanese agency will present its work in Japanese, accompanied by an English translation. The translation may be poor and clumsy, destroying the sense and sensibilities that make the original exciting. It may also be too good: more interesting in English than in the original Japanese. The non-Japanese executive will turn to his Japanese staff for advice. One executive I knew described the result: "If I show it to ten Japanese, what I'll get back is twenty opinions." Like the dominant symbols described by Turner in his writing on ritual, ad copy is multivocal. Deciding on "the meaning" is often difficult, even for native Japanese experts. When large amounts of money are at stake, clients may then turn to research companies for focus groups or theater tests with subjects from the market segment targeted by the advertising. Even then the results are far from decisive. Linguistic difficulties are compounded by cultural expectations. These only rarely, however, involve mistakes at the "Don't you realize that Japanese are group-oriented?" or "When they say hai they only mean 'I'm listening' not necessarily 'I agree'" level. Most of the non-Japanese executives with whom I have worked are sophisticated international business people. They have read at least some of the now voluminous literature on doing business in Japan. They have, in addition, had its messages reinforced by interactions at their clubs and chambers of commerce with "old hands" involved in similar types of businesses.
  10. 10. 250 City & Society The more critical difficulty is that, between lack of linguistic facility and their being busy people, non-Japanese executives are simply unable to keep up with the huge standing wave of constantly changing new information that is Japanese popular culture. How do you know which celebrities are in or out, the details of political or financial scandals, the latest in teenage fads and jargon, what's hot in cars, computers or mobile phones? If you are Japanese, the answer is simple. You scan the advertising in commuter trains, read newspapers and one or more weekly magazines, listen to radio, watch TV. Critics may complain that there is too much overlap in stories and the ways in which they are covered, but, as one of my students at Sophia University pointed out to me, the result is that media function as a kind of "extended neighborhood," where everyone knows what's going on. Everyone, that is, but the non-Japanese executive who is forced to make decisions without the feel for what is going on that the Japanese from his agency and staff take for granted. Rephrasing these remarks in Bourdieu's terminology, we see that the non- Japanese executive lacks the habitus his Japanese agency colleagues take for granted. Not knowing where to look and unable to understand what he sees, he has no way of grasping the constantly changing structure of the field. He is like a soccer player who not only plays clumsily. While trying to keep his eye on the ball, he finds it almost impossible to predict what the other players will do. When Paradigms Clash Finally, then, we come to differences in paradigm. Two, I think, are especially important. The first concerns the form of presentations, the second the role of account executives.5 It is, perhaps, a consequence of a Japanese education, with its emphasis on cramming and regurgitating large amounts of information. One should also note the reading habits cultivated by rapid scanning of comics and weekly magazines in which layouts are, to Western eyes, extremely busy and invite the eye to dart here and there across a jumble of characters and images instead of reading smoothly from left-to-right, top-to-bottom. Whatever the cause, the fact is that materials prepared for Japanese-style presentationsflagrantlyviolate the advice found in Western guidebooks on how to prepare presentations. The latter remind us that Western executives see themselves as busy people and that presentations should, thus, be kept as simple as possible. Charts and diagrams should be presented individually, each on a separate slide or overhead. Text should, as much as possible, be limited to five lines with no more than seven words per line. In a Japanese presentation, it is not unusual to find slides with complex structures of boxes and arrows, multiple charts and masses of text. When asked why, Japanese planners reply that they want to: 1) allow the client to see all of the information and logic that goes into a recommendation;
  11. 11. Advertising in Japan 251 and 2) demonstrate the effort that has gone into its preparation. Both contribute to anshin, a feeling of confidence and security. The impact on Western executives tends to be bafflement, boredom, or rage: "Aren't we paying these people to think? What in the hell do they think they are doing? I don't have time for this!" What may, however, be even more disturbing for the non-Japanese executive is the role played by Japanese account executives. The role expectations on the side of non-Japanese brand and marketing managers who work for large multinational corporations are clear. The account executive is expected to be an active partner, consultant, and leader. In contrast, the Japanese account executive may seem too passive, to lack ideas, to be unable to get things done. These judgments are confirmed by presentations at which Japanese account executives open the proceedings with formal greetings, then sit back and take no active part as creative, marketing or media staff present their work and respond to the client's questions and critiques. Their behavior contrasts sharply with that of Western-agency trained, non-Japanese account executives who make their teams' presentations and bear the brunt of discussions themselves. In the process imagined by the non-Japanese manager, the ideal account executive is someone with an insider's knowledge of the client's business as well as local market conditions. He will be proactive. His services will include a constant stream of fresh ideas and information that help his client develop the product and marketing strategies that the client will present to his own bosses. When these are authorized, they will work together to write the briefs which spell out the specific tasks assigned to other agency staff to implement. When, however, a Japanese agency deals with a Japanese client, both the account executives involved in day-to-day business and their counterparts on the client side are likely to be relatively young and inexperienced. Thus, in addition to basic linguistic and cultural difficulties, the non-Japanese manager who expects to be dealing with experienced, senior people is likely to find himself dealing on a daily basis with people who seem amateurish and may not, in fact, know a great deal about his business. They are typically too junior to force their client's views on senior staff from other agency departments. Their role in the process, as they see it, is coordinating the efforts of the experts from other departments whose business it is to prepare plans and presentations and defend them in discussion with the client. If the client is Japanese and the client's representatives are not happy with what they see, they will speak to the agency's account executives backstage, after the meeting. They will then be able to pass on the client's dissatisfactions in a face-saving manner. In the worst case—when the client is totally disgusted—they can make arrangements to change the other agency staff working on the account, without involving the client directly in messy confrontations. Faced, then, with non- Japanese clients who are likely to erupt in meetings in a confrontational style that erodes agency team morale and presented with direct questions they are
  12. 12. 252 City & Society unequipped to answer, the Japanese account executive is likely to make a poor showing. Now the deficiency in habitus is on the Japanese side. Returning once again to Bourdieu's metaphor, here, too, the soccer player is clumsy. But now he is so concerned with keeping an eye on the other players that he often loses sight of the ball. It Takes a Leader With these thoughts in mind, lets us return, once again, to our cases, starting first with the launch of Caffeine Free Diet Coke. Coca-Cola has been firmly established in Japan since shortly after World War II. Older Japanese may remember being handed their first Coke by an occupation-era GI. Their children have grown up in a world where there have always been Coke vending machines on the streets where they live. More important, for our purposes, is the realization that Coca-Cola advertising is a firmly established and highly regarded genre. It is, in other words, an integral part of Japanese culture. Coca-Cola campaigns are talked about in the popular as well as trade press and regularly rank high on lists of favorite TV commercials. In setting out to create a commercial to launch Caffeine Free Diet Coke, my Japanese colleagues were playing in a familiar field: their habits and their habitus served them well. In contrast, the team working on BMW found itself in a strange field where their habitus made their play clumsy. They were shocked when the newly appointed marketing manager at BMW Japan told them that BMW's chairman had said flatly that he didn't care if 99% of the public didn't like his advertising—they couldn't afford his cars. What value, they asked, could there be in owning a high-status car if everyone didn't recognize its value? They were interested when shown reels of classic BMW advertising produced in the U.K. What they found impossible to duplicate was the in-your-face competitiveness tempered with subtle wit that makes the British commercials delightful to British viewers. If they tried humor, it came across as crude, vulgar, juvenile. If they focused instead on the core proposition, their work became heavy and boring. We needed to find a uniquely BMW voice that would work in Japanese. When we lost the account, we hadn't succeeded. There was, moreover, another problem: The structure of the team itself and the lack of effective leadership. When Hakuhodo had won the account it already had several car accounts: Toyota, Nissan, Honda, Suzuki. In financial terms all but the last were far larger and more important than BMW. More important still, the agency's top experts in automotive advertising were already committed to these other accounts. The team assembled for BMW was composed of individuals seconded from several different divisions, whose primary loyalties lay with other teams. We were, also, all of a similar age: in our 30s and 40s. No
  13. 13. Advertising in Japan 253 one of us was obviously senior to the others. And since all of us had other demands on our time, none of us was eager to accept the responsibilities attendant on being the leader the group. Personally, I was put off by the constant tension and stress the position would have entailed. To my Japanese colleagues the prospects for success seemed low. And none was happy with the prospect of daily interaction with the German marketing manager to whom we reported on the client side. That would have been too hazukashii and muzakashii—too embarrassing, too difficult. Throughout the time that we worked together on this account, the lack of effective leadership made it much harder than it should have been to reach a consensus on what we were doing. Leadership is not often mentioned in anthropological analyses, especially those which deal with Japan. Its importance was driven home to me by comparing my experience in working with the BMW team to working with the Coca-Cola team. There we had a very effective leader indeed. His effectiveness was partly, of course, a matter of what Bourdieu calls social capital. His personality was also important. Where one leaves off and the other begins is something I cannot say. Paul Guilfoile is half-Japanese. The son of an American father and a Japanese mother, he grew up in Japan. His father had had a long and distinguished career in business, and Paul, along with his brothers, seems likely to match his success. What Paul brought to our business was, on the one hand, the ability to interact comfortably with Coca-Cola's non-Japanese executives, Coca-Cola's Japanese middle management, and Hakuhodo's Japanese staff. He combined the ability to think strategically with bulldog-like attention to details and—this was most unusual—the willingness to put himself on the line to protect the other members of his team. "If anything goes wrong," he said, "I'll take the heat." When I asked Paul where he had learned his management philosophy, he answered, "The United States Army." He had joined the army in a fit of Oedipal rebellion and had wound up as the white Sergeant in charge of a mostly black squad at Fort Benning in the state of Georgia. It was there, he said, that he learned about cross-cultural communication, learned to think strategically, and internalized the military ethic that assigns priority to mission, unit, and self in that order. What I do know is that Paul's habitus/personality served us well. We survived the confusion that followed the orientation. We pulled together on time, and this particular presentation strengthened the agency's relationship with its client. Paul knew the field; he kept his eye on the ball and responded with great agility to the changing state of the game. With the right leader in place, the process worked—just the way that Victor Turner said it should.
  14. 14. 254 City & Society Notes 1 The concept evoked here in which advertising and popular culture are linked, complementary, but distinct domains is taken from Fowles (1996). 2 For ease of reference all are mentioned here using their overseas names. 3 Here I must thank Ruth McCreery, who pointed this out to me. 4 Assuming an exchange rate in the neighborhood of 100 yen/U.S. dollar. 5 For an earlier version of this argument which addresses what to do about the problems, see McCreery (1994). References Cited Appadurai, Arjun 1990 Disjunctive and Difference in the Global Cultural Economy. Public Culture 2(2): 1-24. Bourdieu, Pierre and Loi'c J.D. Wacquant 1992 An Invitation to Reflexive Sociology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Fowles, Jib 1996 Advertising and Popular Culture. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. McCreery, John L. 1994 Der Durchbruch—die Arbeit mit japanischen Kunden [Breaking Through—Working with Japanese Creatives]. In Marketing und Kommunikation in Japan. Peter Biieger and Kathanna von Zitzewitz (eds.). Pp. 203-209. Tokyo: Deutsche Industrie-und Handelskammer in Japan. 1995 Malinowski, Magic, and Advertising: On Choosing Metaphors. In Contemporary Marketing and Consumer Behavior: An Anthropological Sourcebook. John Sherry, ed. Pp.309-329. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Moeran, Brian 1996 A Japanese Advertising Agency: An Anthropology of Media and Markets. Richmond: The Curzon Press. Sherry, John F. 1995 Marketing and Consumer Behavior: Into the Field. In Contemporary Marketing and Consumer Behavior: An Anthropological Sourcebook. John F. Sherry, ed. Pp. 3-49. Thousand Oaks: Sage Publications. Turner, Victor 1974 Dramas, Fields, and Metaphors: Symbolic Action in Human Society. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.