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I&CO Founding Partner and Adfest Jury President Rei Inamoto on the advertising shift toward brand POV

PATTAYA, THAILAND — On Day 1 of ADFEST 2024, adobo Magazine caught up with Rei Inamoto, Founding Partner of I&CO APAC and Jury President for Digital & Social Lotus, Digital Craft Lotus, and Mobile Lotus, to hear his insights on the advertising industry’s trends and transformations as observed in the jury room. With over a decade of experience at prominent agencies like AKQA and R/GA, Rei is renowned for his innovative approach to creativity.

Marketing evolution with Rei

When asked about the evolution of digital, social, and mobile marketing, Rei noted a significant shift in consumer dynamics. He explained that while brands once dictated the narrative, today’s empowered audiences influence brand messaging and interactions. This shift, Rei believes, underscores the importance of authenticity and relevance in modern marketing strategies.

The importance of ideas and craft in advertising, not just AI

Reflecting on the notion of the “shiny new thing” in the industry, Rei discussed the prevalent discourse around technologies like AI and virtual reality. Contrary to popular belief, he observed that the most impactful campaigns often prioritize simplicity and craftsmanship over flashy innovations. Rei highlighted the resurgence of traditional storytelling techniques, noting that technology should enhance, rather than overshadow, the core idea. “The ‘shiny new thing’ in advertising is not AI, but rather the importance of craft and simple ideas that resonate,” he shared.


Leveraging digital, social, and mobile for relevance in advertising

In response to questions about leveraging digital channels while staying relevant, Rei emphasized the imperative for brands to integrate technology into their marketing efforts. “Brands and advertisers, they have to use digital, social, mobile,” he said. “It’s almost a given that they rely on those tools and channels and platforms to make themselves relevant.”

He stressed that digital, social, and mobile platforms are no longer optional but essential components of modern advertising. Brands must embrace these tools to maintain relevance and connect with today’s digitally savvy consumers.

Branding trends, including unique perspectives and nostalgia

Throughout the interview, Rei touched upon emerging trends and themes he noticed in the ADFEST jury room. He told adobo Magazine about one of his biggest observations — a shift from focusing solely on unique selling propositions (USPs) to cultivating a strong brand point of view (POV).

“Advertising used to be about USP — what’s special about this product, and how do you sell it? How do you communicate it? How do you promote it? This was the golden standard for marketing,” Rei said. “While it’s still important, what’s even more crucial now is having a unique and strong point of view. As a brand, you have to be able to communicate and stick to it.”

Rei believes that brands with a clear and authentic POV resonate more deeply with consumers, fostering stronger connections and brand loyalty. According to him, brands with strong POVs, such as Nike and Patagonia, will stand out in the age of AI, as they can communicate and live true to their values.

Using technology to enhance old ideas and advocate for fair representation

As the conversation drew to a close, Rei gave standout examples of campaigns that epitomize these emerging trends.

He cited JR Group‘s “My Japan Railway,” conceptualized by Dentsu, as a model for revitalizing a traditional concept with modern technology. In celebration of the 150th anniversary of the railway system in Japan, the campaign combines nostalgia with modern technology to create an engaging experience for commuters.

“My Japan Railway” involves collecting digital stamps from 900 train stations across Japan using mobile technology. While the concept of collecting stamps at train stations is age-old, Dentsu and JR Group “made it new” by integrating mobile devices. Until now, commuters can collect digital stamps through a mobile app, leveraging location technology to identify their whereabouts and authenticate their station visits. This integration of old-world charm with contemporary technology highlights JR Group’s commitment to innovation and customer engagement.

“They took an old idea and revived it for the 21st century, using technology in a very transparent way,” Rei said. “I love the simplicity of the idea and the fact that technology wasn’t at the forefront of it, but in the background to enhance that experience.”

Rei further talked about “Change the Angle,” developed by VML for Lux, which demonstrates the power of combining digital with creativity and purpose.

The campaign tackles the issue of gender bias in sports broadcasting and addresses the tendency of television networks to focus on female athletes’ appearances rather than their athletic achievements. VML and Lux took a bold stance against this by overlaying QR codes onto specific areas of female athletes’ bodies during TV broadcasts. These QR codes directed viewers to educational content, raising awareness about gender bias in sports media.

“I think it’s great for a brand like Lux to use its name and platform to advocate for more fair representation of female athletes,” Rei said. “It’s less about, ‘Hey, this product is better than other products.’ But Lux, as a brand, shows that it has a clear POV and advocates for it.”

As Rei said, those two pieces of work cultivate an authentic point of view and point a way forward for the advertising industry.

adobo Magazine is an official media partner of ADFEST 2024.

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