On Wednesday, October 15th, 2014, CM Director Mr. NAKAJIMA Shinya, who worked on the Nissin Cup Noodle commercials ‘Hungry?’ gave a special lecture in classroom H202. This lecture was made possible due to Mr. NAKAJIMA and APU Vice President IMAMURA Masaharu’s friendship dating back to their university years. The lecture was very entertaining and Mr. NAKAJIMA’s jokes had the audience constantly laughing. With his fresh and far-out ideas, Mr. NAKAJIMA changed the face of the TV commercial world, and his clear objectives and strong resolve are reflected in the commercials he directs.
During his school days Mr. NAKAJIMA, influenced by the British rock band The Beetles, formed a band and spent his days engrossed in music. Despite his own dream of not going to university in favor of becoming a musician, his parents were against this idea and convinced him to enroll at the Musashino Art University. Upon graduation he entered the Tohokushinsha Film Corporation, and with stints at several other companies, he built up his career as a CM director.
Mr. NAKAJIMA figured out that in order to avoid ruffling the feathers of bosses and on-site staff, and in fact make everyone have a good time, he needed to “gauge how people were feeling and get them to try and like him.” This was also invaluable in the production of TV commercials. In order to create good products, he first needed to get out there and spend each day promoting himself to other directors. He had to get them interested, gauge how they were feeling, and make them enjoy themselves, a process that he also always follows when making CMs.
Mr. NAKAJIMA also has two more self-professed doctrines. The first is “if you get told to do something, don’t ask questions first. Say ‘yes’ and accept the decision, and then ask questions later.” This is also an important process in Japanese society. Answering back to your boss with something like “but I was thinking more along the lines of …. “ would not leave a Japanese boss in a very good mood. In Japan you do what you are told first and then ask any questions later, a process that is required in the workplace too.
His second rule is not to get too obsessive over your own creations. Even people you may not like or people who don’t know much about the topic could have a great idea just waiting to be discovered, and taking all of these ideas on board is an important part of the production process. CMs can’t be created by just one person alone.
Mr. NAKAJIMA lastly spoke about ‘Yorokondemora-ism’ – his doctrine on making people happy, saying “it is important that advertisements invoke a reaction in the viewer. It doesn’t need to persuade the audience straight away, but it does need to get them really thinking about what they just saw. For example, none of you ran straight out to buy cup noodles after watching the CM did you? No, commercials need to invoke an emotion, a feeling, in the viewer. They need to leave the audience with a positive feeling and get them to react, or carry out an action, in a positive way. This is how the companies behind CMs create an image amongst their viewers. It isn’t just about passively watching. I want commercials to be seen as a good tool for creators to communicate with viewers.”
Some time was available after the lecture for Mr. NAKAJIMA to answer a few questions.
<Where do the ideas for your commercials come from?>
When we are making a commercial we don’t really put much emphasis on who came up with what idea. Everyone brings ideas to the table and very rarely is a commercial solely my own idea. We all come up with the final idea, as a team. I come up with lots of ideas for the actual footage but within the team there are people that come up with amazing ideas and we all bring different skills and attributes to the team. I make commercials with the help of this great team.
The most important thing underlying an idea is ‘how it makes you feel’. You can’t advertise something you’ve never used or experienced, so the most basic of all things is deciding how you think about it. If you think a product is really easy to carry then you get 100% behind advertising this aspect. If you think a product doesn’t taste that nice but it fills you up then you run with the theme of it ‘filling you up’. How and what you think about things is reflected in your life and everyday living., and these form the basic ideas of commercials. When making the footage, however, portraying things ‘normally’ doesn’t grab the viewer’s attention. In this example you would need to make an overly exaggerated full stomach. I am always thinking about how something can be made to stand out amongst the numerous other advertising and commercials out there. The point of any idea is basing it on reality but then thinking about how far to take it.
<What skills would APU students need if they decided to enter the Media world?>
I think there are so many different possibilities for APU students. If I was going to make a comparison it would be to a rich field or flower-pot with rich soil inside, and it is companies and society that decides what seed to plant. APU is making the rich soil in which these seeds will be planted and has an excellent environment for doing so. I’m not just talking about specialist knowledge because ideas are lying dormant amongst things we yet know nothing about. Studying a broad range of things outside of your major field definitely helps in the making of this rich soil.
It isn’t about specific skills the media industry is looking for, but more about how you can nurture the seed that was planted. The media industry demands an array of different things and some of them aren’t very logical. Only people who have the perseverance to endure and be patient during these times will make it to the end. Patience and endurance are definitely virtues in the media industry.
<What message do you have for APU students?>
APU students are learning in a truly amazing environment. In the rapid economic growth period that followed the end of the war students could pretty much get a job anywhere if they just graduated from university. Students would work hard even if the teachers weren’t, but it’s very different now. Universities need to be designed around exactly what kind of university they want to be, creating a learner-friendly environment for students and how to best get students to study. The philosophy and thought of adults wanting to create a good university for students is evident in a lot of places and I hope students will take this passion and enthusiasm from their elders and be diligent in their studies. There really aren’t many universities like this around.
Commercials are something we watch without thinking too much, but after this special lecture we can now feel the passion and ideas of the advertising creators behind them. Mr. NAKAJIMA’s principle of ‘Yorokondemora-ism’ changes our perspective of the CMs we see all the time, and there are probably quite a few of you who felt like perhaps giving commercial making a go. For CM directors, the scenes they see everyday can hold the key to an idea for a commercial. Maybe even what you see could become an amazing idea for a CM.