Creating Image and Music: ANESSA Director on Portraying Iconic Women of Summer


Requesting collaborating artists to use chorus lyrics that are closest to the commercial concept.

--ANESSA's 2018 commercial is a cinematic work that leaves a deep impression, with its set-up of a giant mirror stage floating in the ocean, as well as the cooling tunes by Nulbarich, a band that has been attracting much attention recently.

Ono: The "mirror" used in the filming had a diameter measuring 4 m long, and weighed 1 ton. It was transported by a truck and ferry from Tokyo to Okinawa, where we were shooting on location. ANESSA has been employing model Hikari Mori as its muse since 2017, and we produced this latest commercial with the intention of making the audience feel that she shines the most brilliantly in ANESSA's commercial.

--Mr. Ono, you have been producing ANESSA's commercials since 2013. What have you constantly kept in mind and focused on in the production of these commercials?

Ono: Since the start of sales for ANESSA in 1992, we have been launching an advertising campaign every summer. Past commercials have been marked by their individual character depending on the year, but something that we have continued to depict unchangingly throughout the years is the image of "women as the icon of summer." Through ANESSA's commercials, I hope to create a sense of the openness and liberation that is unique to summer, and to give women a sense of excitement while rousing their curiosity. I pursue a form of expression that makes the viewer feel instinctively, rather than think logically, "Wow, how beautiful!" or "Wow, how sexy!"

--ANESSA's commercial songs, produced in collaboration with artistes who are representative of each era such as Ketsumeishi, Gen Hoshino, and Sakanaction, also become the talk of the town each year.

Ono: We place great importance on the musical collaboration for ANESSA commercials. The use of popular models and artistes in the production of commercials is a method that has been frequently adopted from before, but I feel that it is a particularly effective method in our current times. Music fans are immensely powerful when it comes to spreading and popularizing the commercials on social media.

When we ask artistes to provide the music through collaboration, I always promise the artistes that I will never make the songs be mere "background music." Rather than simply and vaguely matching trendy music with the film, I ask them to use phrases that are closest to the concept of the commercial as the lyrics for the high point of the song. This is actually the key point of the commercial. I ensure that the timing of the images and the high point of the song match perfectly, creating a structure that definitely stays in the viewer's memory.

Furthermore, when approaching an artist with the job, I do not go through an agent or music production company, but create orientation materials that I use to provide the artiste with a direct explanation in person. I cover points ranging from the concept of the commercial and what I wish to convey, to the image of the song and lyrics that I had in mind when I considered "What would the result be like if I were to ask this artist to do it?"

--Have you ever requested an artist to insert a certain specific phrase into the song?

Ono: Yes, I have. For example, in the 2013 commercial featuring Yu Aoi, I asked the lyrics "you you you you you sun sun" to be inserted. The result was the song "Yu, San San" (meaning "Brilliant Melancholy") by CreepHyp. Sekaikan Ozaki, the member in charge of composing the music and lyrics in the band, was taken aback when I made the request (laughs), so I had to bow to him in respect. He transformed and elevated the lyrics within himself, and produced the lyrics "Yu...... yu, san san" in Japanese.

--What was the concept of the commercial at the time?

Ono: Between 2010 and 2012, ANESSA was appealing for everyday use by consumers, instead of use at the beach or on leisure occasions. In opposition to cheap sunblock products by rival companies, our message was "Use it every day because it is gentle on the skin." However, because we created an expression of gentleness rather than strength, the commercials were not dynamic and eventually diluted ANESSA's image in the public eye. In light of that, since 2013, we have switched to creating an expression of "strength" by returning to the image of "the strongest woman in summer," which ANESSA was using previously.

The repetitive phrase of "you you you you you sun sun" that had sprung from this concept, when hummed, sounds like "Yu" in Yu Aoi and the strong summer "sun." Hence, our aim was to make these images memorable for the viewer.

On the shoot of the commercial
On the shoot of the commercial
When approaching artistes on collaboration, Ono prepares enthusiastic orientation materials and a storyboard.

If you can produce graphics, you can similarly produce a movie.

-- Mr. Ono, you concurrently hold the responsibilities of being the Creative Director (hereafter, "CD") coordinating all the commercials, digital content, magazine advertisements, and packaging for ANESSA, as well as the commercial director in charge of the staging and direction of the commercial.

Ono: Yes. All the ANESSA commercials that I have been involved in over the past six years were shaped by myself as the commercial director, and are the culmination of all the projects I have undertaken as ANESSA's CD. Since I can bring about the realization of the output that I had imagined at the planning phase in an ideal way, I adopt this method when I have a clear and completed image in my mind. This includes work related to ANESSA.

On the other hand, there are also cases where there is a strong possibility of achieving much more than I had imagined if I ask someone else to direct the commercial. At such times, I manfully leave the job of directing the commercial to someone else. As the CD, I have to make that judgement calmly. Conversely, I cannot allow myself to fail if I decide to do it myself, so that creates some strain.

-- What are some of the things you have to be conscious of when you double as both the overall "commander" and the director of the commercial?

Ono: I take care to listen to and respect the views of the staff around me with an open mindset. I ask them to tell me anything they are concerned about, even if it is a small detail. In addition, for the ANESSA commercials in the past few years, I have given up coming up with the proposal on my own. I leave the job of coming up with the idea to the team's art director and copywriter, while I coordinate their ideas and focus on the staging and performance. This helped to expand the breadth of expression significantly.

For example, in the 2017 commercial, Hikari Mori walks along a runway that is headed toward the sea. This was an idea by art director, Mr. Takada. Originally, the idea had been to set as the stage a sandy beach that appears only when the sea is at low tide, but this meant that we would not be able to film unless the conditions were perfect. Hence, we chose the method of creating a man-made path. The resulting runway really suited the model, Hikari Mori, very well.

-- Leaving the work to the younger generation also helps in nurturing successors, doesn't it?

Ono: Yes. These days, movies can be distributed not only on television, but also through websites and social media, so the opportunities are increasingly expanding. Going forward, I would definitely like other art directors apart from myself to take up the challenge of producing movies.

There is a tendency to think that special knowledge is required in order to produce a movie. However, one should be able to do it if he or she is equipped with the high level of expertise that a graphic art director has in the areas of layout, trimming, and retouching. Furthermore, since a movie has elements that still images do not have, such as music, audio, and length, there is a wider breadth for expression, which makes it really fun.

Pushing the limits to produce the memorable song of summer.

-- Mr. Ono, you first joined Shiseido as a graphic designer. Your current job is creative director, but what were the events that led you to take on the direction of commercials?

Ono: The Shiseido Advertising and Design Department (now the Creative Division) has always been a group of outstanding and prominent art directors from the past. However, the period from the second half of the 1970s to the 1980s, which coincided with the period of my adolescence, was when the television enjoyed its peak popularity. In addition to graphic posters and magazine advertising, the television had immense influence. Even Shiseido collaborated with the most popular musicians at the time such as Eikichi Yazawa and Rats & Star to produce commercials, and these commercials would, predictably, bring about an explosive rise in the sales of its products.

Attracted by the commercials that I saw around that time, I admired Shiseido and therefore joined the company. However, when I joined the company, most of Shiseido's commercials had actually been planned and produced by external creators. When I found that out upon joining the company, I felt that they should be produced by Shiseido's employees just like the posters.

-- You discovered the gap between your aspirations and reality, didn't you?

Ono: From about the second half of my 20s, I began to feel that I would like to be involved in movie production as well. After that, I was assigned the job of commercial planner, so in addition to planning the commercials, I also had to be present during the filming and editing processes. The further I stepped into the field, the more strongly I felt that members of Shiseido, who are the experts of beauty, should produce the commercials themselves.

To date, I have been involved in the production of close to 200 commercials. With regard to my experience when it comes to "women's pursuit of beauty" and "musical collaborations," I am proud to say that I can hold my own outside of the company.

-- Apart from ANESSA, what commercials have you been involved in that involved musical collaborations?

Ono: From the second half of the 1990s to the first half of the 2000s, I was in charge of collaborations such as the hair care brand TESSERA, which involved a collaboration with artistes including PUFFY and SPEED, as well as Kazuyoshi Saito's "Zutto Sukidatta" for IN&ON beauty food and cosmetic products.

-- The products that involved these collaborations with renowned artistes became the talk of the town at the time, and the songs also became hot-sellers. What do you think about the fact that Mr. Ono as a man is promoting products for women?

Ono: I think that women, who have a better understanding of the reality of being a woman, are better at producing commercials that have excellent qualities of empathy and familiarity. On the other hand, I believe that men are better at producing commercials that create excitement, an element of surprise, or which make women discover an attractive side to themselves that they had never realized before.

Even for ANESSA's commercials, I think that it is very important to distinguish between the "sexiness that women like" and the "sexiness that women dislike." However, if I do not take up the challenge of tackling that delicate aspect in depicting women, I would definitely not be able to produce a memorable "poem of summer."

-- Having overcome numerous difficulties, you have succeeded in producing commercials for ANESSA and other brands, which leave a strong impression on the minds of people.

Ono: Well... in fact, I never felt that it was difficult. Even ordinarily, I like to think about how to make women happy. I am a complete feminist (laughs). Since my job involves thinking about how I can make a woman look the most beautiful, it is not something that poses any difficulty for me. Rather, I find it enjoyable. I consider my current job to be my natural calling. I believe that the happier women are, the happier the entire world will become.

Shiseido Creative Division
CD / Dir
Takeshi Ono
Daisuke Takada
Kuniaki Yamamoto / Ryohei Nagaiwa
Keiko Watanabe
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