In Tokyo, Convenience Stores Are Full of Marketing Gems, and Tommy Lee Jones Is Boss
Look for the line helpfully taped to the floor several feet from the register when you go to pay. It's one customer at a time at the counter, though the rule is unspoken and not immediately clear to newcomers. One frequently feels like a walking faux pas.
Japanese women are the most dynamic demographic at the moment, though few consumer trends seem to stick. Many urban working women are eschewing traditional gender roles to focus on careers and themselves. Women are increasingly dining alone (which used to make them feel self-conscious), and restaurants have responded with female-friendly meals for one.
Young urban men, on the other hand, have rejected the machismo of their fathers' generation of salarymen and adopted a gentler outlook. Cooking classes are popular, as are grooming products and desserts for men. Young office workers in Tokyo still wear black suits (things in Japan haven't changed that much), but their outfits feature unique personal touches -- colorful silk ties and buttery-leather shoes.
It's impossible to talk about marketing in Japan without mentioning Dentsu, which with No. 2 agency, Hakuhodo, dominates the market. Though Dentsu's international profile is still growing, no advertising agency comes close to matching its scale or media-buying power at home. Its soaring glass headquarters is one of the tallest buildings in Japan, with the excellent Advertising Museum Tokyo in the basement.
But often it felt like a trip in a reversed time machine. A visit with Shiseido included a stop at the corporate headquarters near Tokyo Bay. As our meeting began, a woman in a pink skirt-suit entered the room, bowed and knelt to pour green tea for each of us as we sat around a low table.
Lunch at the Shiseido Parlour (in the building that housed the original Shiseido Pharmacy, in Tokyo's posh Ginza district) was a multicourse affair, with food served on delicate china in a setting that would be perfectly suited for the Real Housewives of Tokyo. The rich potato croquettes were made from a 100-year-old recipe. Dapper waiters provided polished silver hooks topped with the Shiseido logo to hang on the sides of the tables so that no purse has to touch the ground.
Yet the modern side of the company is just next door, in the glossy new Shiseido flagship store featuring state-of -the-art skin-analysis machines and high-definition video terminals that can apply products virtually to a customer's face.
For all that 's different and unexpected about Japan -- heated plush seats on trains! Giant cellphones! -- at least one thing was comfortingly familiar: A night owl is a night owl everywhere. At the ad agencies I visited (except Dentsu, where the department was not part of my official tour), no creatives were at their desks before lunchtime.