What should Japanese ad agencies do right now?
This was the question posed by my planning colleague in Tokyo. The answer is blindingly obvious: help people communicate. But not in the one-to-many way that we have been doing for the last 100 years: this is the time to create dialogue. The only way to dispel fear, doubt and chaos is through transparency, honesty and clarity. Through listening and responding. So here are 3 ways I thought ad agencies could be useful at this time – they are all about communication, just not ads:
1. Supply problems: the entire world is feeling the effect of Japanese industry breakdowns. We can help our clients by establishing communication channels between them and their customers, to keep them updated on what’s going on and when they can expect deliveries. It is a great way to be absolutely transparent, and to build relationships with your customer base. The agency can play a role in creating the channels for that dialogue. In effect, become part of the client’s internal communications team.
2. Contamination: If we have food clients, or any kind of consumer goods clients, the one thing they will want to reassure customers is about radiation levels. Again, this is an opportunity to be very transparent, maybe post radiation testing results on a website and open up a hotline etc.
3. Internal communication: Probably the most important kind of communication right now. Can we set up an internal social network, or use Facebook etc, to open up internal channels of communication? Japanese companies are not known for their internal communication, but this is an opportunity to change that perception and really reach out to the people who matter most – our employees and stakeholders, with direct messages from the top management of the company.
Great catastrophes bring with them an opportunity to re-invent ourselves. This is an opportunity for Japanese companies to communicate with all their audiences and meld them into a community: one that will help rebuild Japan and Japanese business.