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Cannes Lions reflections: Hakuhodo’s 5-stage recipe for creative success

The Hakuhodo team take turns to share a five-point approach to cultivating an appetite among consumers

created on Sunday 18 Jun 2017

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As the midday sun beat down on the Croisette, hundreds escaped to the cool of the Lumiere Theatre. There to greet them was Hakuhudo’s ‘Touchpoint Evangelist’ Haruko Minagawa, giving the sunshine outside a run for its money in her fetching canary yellow dress. 

Introducing the session, Minagawa – flanked by colleagues Kazuaki Hashida and Takahiro Hosoda – told the audience that they were there to “delve into everybody’s favourite topic – food.” But what exactly does appetite have to do with creativity?  

As it turned out, plenty. Once upon a time, they explained, people craved information – “It wasn’t difficult to create a hit product through some fancy advertising”. But things have changed – and creating desire in the era of social media is no mean feat. This, they argued, leaves the ad industry with a challenge: to carefully cultivate the desire to buy. 

Cleverly weaving their culinary metaphor throughout the talk, the Hakuhodo team took turns to share a five-point approach to cultivating this appetite among consumers, supporting each one with an example of a campaign that had successfully employed the technique.

1. Imperfect experience leads to perfect understanding

“Restaurants and bars stir our imaginations and peak our curiosity by giving us a limited taste of their menus” 

“Restaurants and bars stir our imaginations and peak our curiosity by giving us a limited taste of their menus,” they argued. Limiting the experience, it seems, stimulates our desire to seek out the perfect experience.

They used the campaign for Nissan’s ‘propilot technology’ as an equivalent example in the advertising world. Rather than demonstrating this technology on cars themselves, Nissan applied the self-drive tech to chairs and placed them outside restaurants that commonly see big queues. This quirky campaign gave people in line the chance to sit down, move up the queue and sample self-drive technology on a small scale. 

2. Imperfect information perfects the imagination 

When you go to a restaurant, Minagawa argued, usually there aren’t any images of the food you’re about to order, since “The most mouth-watering dishes are in your mind.” How does this relate to advertising? Because limiting the amount of information stimulates consumers’ appetites. 

To prove this theory of ‘less is more’, they used the example of Yahoo! Japan’s campaign to remind people of the importance of disaster preparedness. This saw a red bar painted on a building at the same height as the 2016 tsunami that struck Japan, along with the caption “It was this high.” This turned out to be hugely effective since “No video technology can match the human brain and the theatre within it.” 
“No video technology can match the human brain and the theatre within it.” 

3. Imperfect environment creates an immersive effect

Restaurants put a lot of effort into creating an ambience where you can focus solely on the food and conversation, Minagawa pointed out. And in this age of “information overload,” advertisers need to create an environment where people will pay attention to their brand messages. 

To prove the point, the Hakuhodo team played a Tiffany campaign that saw couples’ outstretched palms turned into picture books: a playful, touching example of successfully limiting the senses.

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4. Imperfect context piques curiosity

For their fourth point, Minagawa cited a culinary favourite of hers back in Japan: ‘Omakase’ – essentially, leaving everything up to the chef. This, they argued, is the antithesis of a set meal – which is boringly predictable by comparison. 

Wrenched from its usual context, they argued, things are much more powerful – which is particularly important in the social media era. To demonstrate the point, they played the viral AIG camapign ‘#TackleTheRisk’ – a high energy ad that you’d never guess until the end was for an insurance company.

5. Celebrating imperfection wins people’s sympathy 

It’s seldom as good as the stuff you’d get in a restaurant, but often our favourite food is home-cooked. This, Hakuhodo argued, shows that the things we are fondest of are imperfect. “Advertising used to be about showing people an ultimate ideal, but now we’re celebrating human imperfection,” Hashida argued. “A meal that is 100% perfect would be dull indeed, and the same goes for a 100% perfect ad. We should focus on that indecipherable something that engrosses people – there may lie the key to creativity.” 

With their five course meal plan for successful advertising laid out, the Hakuhodo trio left to a warm round of applause and a very hungry audience – just in time for lunch.

Talks and work from Cannes Lions 2017 will be available on the Cannes Lions Player. 

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