Monday, September 5, 2005


Yosuke Tanio, a native of Japan, is an account supervisor at Starr Seigle Communications, which has several Japan-related clients. On Tuesday, he met with Chuck Cohen, the company's senior vice president and executive media director, in the company's 19th-floor offices at 1001 Bishop St. to discuss a project.

Living the dream

Yosuke Tanio always wanted
to live and work in America,
and now he does

Yosuke Tanio

Title: Account supervisor

Job: Manages advertising accounts for Starr Seigle Communications, including the Visit Japan Campaign

Yosuke Tanio grew up in Japan but says he always dreamed of living and working in the United States, which he now does as an account supervisor at Starr Seigle Communications in Honolulu. Ironically, one of his main responsibilities is to encourage people from America to visit Japan, via his employer's connection with the Japanese government's Visit Japan Campaign. He also is Starr Seigle's "bridgepoint" for several other Japan-related clients, primarily because of his familiarity with Japanese language and culture. Tanio studied Chinese culture at Kobe City University of Foreign Studies, from which he graduated in 1996. He also studied for a year in the International Business Professions Program at Bellevue Community College in Seattle, on a full scholarship sponsored by the International Cross-Cultural Committee. Before joining Starr Seigle, Tanio worked for seven years at one of the world's largest advertising agencies, J. Walter Thompson Co., in Tokyo, on the accounts of at least a half-dozen global corporations, which further broadened his world perspective. Tanio is 34, single and lives in the Ala Moana area.

Question: How long have you been with Starr Seigle Communications?

Answer: Almost three years. I started in November 2002.

Q: What kind of a company, exactly, is Starr Seigle Communications?

A: It's a communications agency that has an advertising department, a PR department, interactive marketing, and research, and also the branding.

Q: What is interactive marketing?

A: Interactive marketing is focused on marketing through the Internet.

Q: And what is branding?

A: Branding is to help a company make connections with their customers, and motivate their own people.

Q: What division are you in?

A: I'm in advertising.

Q: Are you originally from Japan?

A: Yes.

Q: What part?

A: Originally from Kobe.

Q: How did you wind up in America?

A: I always dreamed of coming to live and work in America ever since I was really small. I used to work for an American advertising agency in Tokyo, called J. Walter Thompson Co. -- it's one of the largest advertising agencies in the world, actually -- and I was looking for the opportunity. And very fortunately, I found Starr Seigle and I applied. And very, very fortunately, I got a job offer, so I moved here three years ago.

Yosuke Tanio has been working at Starr Seigle Communications in Honolulu since November 2002. He joined the firm after seven years with J. Walter Thompson Co. in Tokyo, which exposed him to global companies and how they work with advertising agencies.

Q: How did you get into the advertising business?

A: I always liked advertising. Also, I was very into marketing. So when I was job hunting in college, I thought advertising would be a good industry for me to get in. Also, the one company I worked for (J. Walter Thompson Co.) was a global company, so I felt definitely that working for them would be beneficial for me to do well globally. Also, its clients are big global companies, such as Kellogg, Unilever, Merrill Lynch and Shell. I was very fortunate to be able to look after those accounts, so the experience in working with those clients is my huge asset right now.

Q: What accounts are you working on right now?

A: The main project I'm involved in right now is the Visit Japan Campaign, run by the government of Japan and the private sector. This project is led by the prime minister, Junichiro Koizumi, and he wants Japan to be a tourism destination, because Japan has been very behind when it comes to inbound tourism from overseas. So Japan is trying to double the number of inbound tourism by the year 2010.

This project started in 2003. It's the first time for the government of Japan to conduct this kind of campaign, and the U.S. is one of the most important markets for Japan for this kind of campaign.

In 2003, the Japan government did a RFP (request for proposals) to conduct a campaign for the U.S., and we participated in it and we won. We won again in 2004, and we just won again this year -- three years in a row. We had to compete against all the giant Japanese advertising agencies, such as Dentsu, which is the single largest independent ad agency in the world.

Q: Were you the lead for your company on this project?

A: Yes. The clients are all in Japan, they are all Japanese nationals. So all the documents that we have to provide must be in Japanese. So especially to deal with those people, especially in government and the tourism industry in Japan, you have to be able to understand the business style, the manners, the etiquette and so on. So my having worked with business people in Japan really helped us.

And it's been a wonderful opportunity for me to introduce my own country to my adopted country. It's such an honor to introduce Japan to the people all over the U.S.

And, very fortunately, the tourism from the U.S. to Japan has been increasing.

Q: Can you give me any figures on that?

A: Yes. In 2004, the total number of U.S. visitors to Japan was 759,753, according to the JNTO (the Japanese National Tourist Organization), and this figure is the highest in history. And even in 2005, as of April, the figure is 14.2 percent plus, compared to the same period last year, so even the figure this year has been good, too.

Q: Have you ever met with Prime Minister Koizumi in person about this campaign?

A: I wish. (Laughter) He's in the TV spots of the campaign.

Our real client -- the ministry we have the contract with -- is the (Japan) Ministry for Land, Infrastructure and Transport.

Q: Is the Visit Japan Campaign the only contract you work on?

A: No. I'm currently working on Sony Hawaii and also the Shokudo restaurants.

Q: How do you persuade somebody that they should be working with your company?

A: We are the total communication agency that can provide the marketing solutions from various angles, including advertising, PR, research and interactive marketing. Branding also. Also, I'm a Japanese national who understands the markets both in the United States and Japan.

Q: I guess you had to take English growing up in Japan, huh?

A: Yes. And also the official language of J. Walter Thompson in Japan is English.

Q: What elements go into a typical advertising campaign that would be your responsibility?

A: Budget control, schedule control, quality control and also client control. Those four controls are the main things (for which) I'm responsible.

Budget and schedule are without saying, but quality is the advertising itself. Also we did the Web site for this Visit Japan Campaign, and all the advertising and the services have to be good quality. I am committed to this 24-7 on call, so I give myself totally to the clients. They have my number and they can call me any time. It is very important to develop the good relationship, especially when you do business with the Japanese people.

Q: Do you have to fly to Japan regularly?

A: Yes. Every other month I go to Tokyo to meet clients.

Q: Sounds like your days are very busy.

A: (Laughter) Yes.

Q: How many people do you work with on your accounts?

A: Right now I presume it's around 80.

Q: That's the number of people in the whole company?

A: Yes.

Q: What takes up most of your time each day?

A: I think talking with the staffs in different divisions, sharing the information, and also trying to come up with solutions together.

Q: Are you on the Internet a lot?

A: Yes, and also telephone, with clients in Japan; clients always contact me. I'm the bridgepoint between the agency and the client.

Q: What time do you get to work every day and when do you leave?

A: Our work hours are 8 to 5, but I usually stay late. It depends, but like 9, 10, 12. Especially before a pitch, sometimes near midnight -- or sometimes all night. (Laughter)

But this beautiful environment of Hawaii gives me energy to work harder because on the weekends I can go to the beach and get rejuvenated. And the people working with me are very wonderful. I'm very, very fortunate.

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