Masato Kosukegawa, creative director for Japanese cosmetics brand Shiseido, scored a viral hit late last year with "High School Girl?", a mesmerizing tribute to the power of makeup. In a classroom of high school girls, the camera lingers on one delicate face after another. Then abruptly the film rewinds, revealing that they're not girls at all, but teenage boys who were made over with mascara, lipstick and wigs. "Everyone can be pretty," is the tagline.
Mr. Kosukegawa has spent his entire career at Shiseido, which he joined in 1991. (That's not unusual in Japan, with its traditional system of lifetime employment.) After three years in Shiseido's sales department, he moved to the advertising and design department, where he still works.
As an in-house creative, Mr. Kosukegawa says he keeps in mind that makeup "may not create huge social changes, but it can definitely make the individual people who use it happier … I want to make people feel good or impart some positive impression through cosmetics." He says he's not interested in work that depicts women as mere appealing objects -- he wants to hit an emotional level and try new things.
The goal of "High School Girl," which already earned a Gold Pencil in Branded Entertainment at this year's One Show, was to reach a demographic of younger consumers (Shiseido's typical target is more mature and traditional). Eventually the team focused on the subculture of "otokonoko," or cross-dressing, which has been a big topic of discussion online. The plan had the added benefit of demonstrating the talents of Shiseido's makeup artists, said Mr. Kosukegawa, who also gave props to director Sho Yanagisawa, production company Watts of Tokyo and the ordinary high-schoolers who had to stick to their poses for seven hours.
Although Mr. Kosukegawa says he finds working with agency talent inspiring, this project was done in-house.
"I think one of the merits of working in-house is that whenever there was some kind of problem, I didn't have to explain things much, and we were able to respect each other's roles and quickly resolve them as a team," he said.