Hiroshi Igarashi


'What We Promote Is Balance, Through A Hybrid Approach' - Dentsu's Hiroshi Igarashi

Ahead of Cannes Lions, the Dentsu chief addressed a few of the potential trends that will be discussed at the festival of creativity this year

By Stephen Lepitak

We are just days away from yet another year of Cannes Lions taking place, where most of the world's advertising leadership will gather to discuss industry trends, review the output from the sector and discuss where things are going in the short term. In advance, we spoke with the holding company chiefs from the Big Six agency networks for their take on a few of the potential industry discussion points.

Our next subject is Dentsu's president and global chief executive, Hiroshi Igarashi.

What have been the main achievements so far for the business as a consequence of the adoption of the One Dentsu strategy last year? 

Dentsu has really built momentum over the last year as we continue to transform and simplify our offering, strengthening our business. There have been many achievements both big and small, driven by the incredible talent throughout Dentsu, but allow me to focus on a few that will further strengthen what we offer to clients.

One Dentsu is really the consequence of the actions we have taken, helping to create a seamless organization that has both breadth and depth. It is a philosophy and a culture of collaboration and integration which gets stronger every day, but it is also a structure which is underpinned by a foundation of technology and data.

The launch of our Global Practices last year was a major development in achieving that seamlessness. We appointed of a group of new leaders to help nurture and develop cross-service offerings while ensuring clients can still benefit from the deep and distinct knowledge within our enduring global leadership brands: Carat, iProspect, Dentsu X, Dentsu Creative, Merkle and Tag.

The development of a distinct Integrated Growth Solutions offering was also the result of our ability to deliver a more tightly knitted service set and a direct response to client demand for end-to-end, simplified solutions. They bring together the best of our marketing services, alongside our business transformation consultancy, to offer clients solutions that are ideas-led, AI-powered, and value-driven.

And most recently, we were proud to launch our new global client proposition: Innovating to Impact. This new proposition is the culmination of over 120 years of innovation in pursuit of outcomes for clients and a reflection of our dedication to deliver outcomes that not only drive business growth but also generate a positive effect on people, society and the world.

What is most important is that we’re seeing the fruits of these achievements coming through in clients wins and expansions from the likes of T-Mobile, Ferrero, and IKEA. These are brands which believe in our approach and we continue to see strong demand for our differentiated offering.

How have your creative agencies and departments evolved with the addition of Gen AI technology? Can you offer an example of a campaign that included its use?

Gen AI technology has been a remarkable tool to broaden our creative potential and increase our business efficiency. By establishing a tech Centre of Excellence, Dentsu’s creative brands and departments have access to a global specialist team dedicated to identifying and unlocking cutting-edge AI solutions. It has been inspiring and exciting to see how partnering in such innovative and creative thinking has allowed Dentsu to impact societal and business change for clients.

We were awarded the Pharma Grand Prix at Cannes last year for Dentsu Creative’s "Scrolling Therapy" AI tool, which enables Parkinson’s patients to scroll and engage on social media when doing therapeutic facial exercises. This year we are entering our "Easy Reading" work from Portugal, a world-first AI application that makes literature accessible to the 40 million people living with intellectual disabilities around the world.

Beyond these creative uses, we were also quick to embrace AI for the efficiencies it allows, freeing time for creative thinking and collaboration. For example, Dentsu was the first advertising business to trial Microsoft Co-Pilot and we have also applied AI to build our proprietary DEI insights tool, which helps our clients be more inclusive in their marketing content. This can process and score hundreds of thousands of images almost instantly, to determine how fair and inclusive they are, which is impossible to do at scale manually.

While we’re fully embracing the potential of Gen-AI, we see it as a tool first - only as powerful as the irreplaceable creativity of our teams.

What impact had been made for the business from your people returning to the office, albeit still not on a full-time basis perhaps?

The power of what happens when we connect with colleagues in person is something that we’re all remembering as we spend more and more time together. While we don’t have a global mandate to return to the office, ultimately we are a people business, built on the incredible talents that exist throughout our network around the world.

What we promote is balance, through a hybrid approach. We encourage our local leaders to find the balance that works best for our clients and our teams while appreciating that cultural differences around the world mean this approach may differ from market to market.

Some business can of course be done virtually and that brings many benefits. But some outcomes can only be achieved when we get together as teams and with clients. It is hard to replicate that magic and develop that culture if you cannot meet in real life. That is not to say it must happen in the office either – I see our teams coming together on client sites, in co-working spaces and through events like our global volunteering initiative, One Day for Change. These are unique moments when unexpected innovations can be born.


Cannes Lions has introduced a Creator track this year but how challenging is it for agencies to partner with creators external to the business?

Brands are not simply owned by marketing any longer – they are also defined and led by the audiences and communities that buy their products and services. This changing dynamic, or shift to buyer-power, has significantly altered how brands communicate. The old style of broadcasting to, or interrupting customers, no longer works with every audience, especially younger generations. Modern brands are built with and by creators who bring authenticity and credibility that you can’t buy through other methods.

When we are planning a new go-to-market launch, or shift to a new category for a client, working with creators is now an important part of the marketing mix, and not just as a channel. Creators are cultural leaders within audience communities and should therefore become part of the strategy definition phase, even helping to get inside the heads of the audience during product and service development.

Dentsu has a large number of creator initiatives around the world, including partnerships in areas like our gaming solutions through Roblox, and the development of specific creator collectives and units across the UK, South Africa, Germany, Italy and Spain. They are paving new ways to reach audiences that both replace and augment traditional media models of the past.

Follow Creative Salon's Cannes Lions 2024 coverage through our dedicated content section.


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