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Two Dentsu Employees Made It onto “The Leading Global Thinkers of 2016” List
A voluntary initiative project with no budget or resources is cast into the global spotlight

Totally out of the blue

One early morning, we received the email without warning. It was from United States-based magazine Foreign Policy. The email was sent to inform us that we had been named on “The Leading Global Thinkers of 2016” list. Of course, we had never asked to be considered for the list. Foreign Policy magazine is—as you probably are already aware—a very authoritative journal focused on global affairs and international diplomacy. The magazine is published by The FP Group, which is owned by Graham Holdings Company (formerly, The Washington Post Company). From their web site, one can see that their list of articles covering US and international politics it exhaustive. Upon closer inspection, we even found that there was a very cordial letter of invitation attached in the email from the CEO and Editor of The FP Group David Rothkopf himself. The letter said that in December 2016, an award ceremony would be held in Washington, D.C., and that Foreign Policy was inviting all of those chosen for the 2016 list. They asked us to attend the ceremony. In our industry, it is common to hear about people receiving advertising awards, but I have hardly ever heard of anything like this before. Since we thought there would never be another opportunity like this, we readily accepted the invitation. As representatives of the project team, Akira Suzuki and Togo Kida headed for Washington, D.C.

The Leading Global Thinkers of 2016:

Second Life Toys project

So, why were we named as part of The Leading Global Thinkers of 2016 list? The reason was that Foreign Policy had appraised highly a project we had initiated—the Second Life Toys project. The theme of the project is organ transplants and organ donors. The project runs a campaign that approaches this theme by mending broken toys through “toy transplant surgery.” (For further details, please refer to Globalink, October 2016.) We were very fortunate that the project received extensive media coverage, not only in Japan but also internationally. It appears that some of the editorial team at Foreign Policy read an article about the Second Life Toys project, and decided to contact us.

The Leading Global Thinkers of 2016

The Second Life Toys project communicates the significance of organ transplants

Why us?

However, among the myriad projects and initiatives being run all over the world, why did the editors of Foreign Policy single out the Second Life Toys project for recognition? The fact that Second Life Toys is an advertising communication project makes its selection even more surprising. We could fully understand if the project had won a creative award at the Cannes Lions or another competition, but we wondered why Foreign Policy magazine—totally unrelated to advertising and communication—had chosen us? When we obliquely inquired with the secretariat along these lines, the answer that came back was very interesting. They said that around the world, there are diverse initiatives responding to a diverse array of issues.
However, the Second Life Toys project caught their attention by adopting a very positive and creative approach to a very complex and heavy issue—organ transplant. Originally, Second Life Toys began as a voluntary pre-project, and was implemented as a project with very limited resources and budget. Hence, we were particularly glad to receive the aforementioned comment from the Foreign Policy editors. We took it as recognition of the power of the ideas we deal with on a day-to-day basis.

The Leading Global Thinkers of 2016

Togo (left) and Akira (right) at the award ceremony

Without warning, a discussion begins

We barely had time to take this all in before we were headed for Washington, D.C., to attend the award ceremony. This city is the heart of the American political landscape. As fans of the drama series “House of Cards” on Netflix, it was a deeply moving experience to arrive in Washington, D.C. However, the award ceremony was completely unlike anything one might witness in the world of advertising and communication. At lunchtime on the day of the ceremony, we were all called to a large room at the hotel by Foreign Policy editor David Rothkopf. The award ceremony was scheduled for that evening. We wondered what was going on? While we were still mulling this over, David continued, glancing at us sidelong. “Since we have so many of the world’s leading thinkers gathered here today, we would like to tap into your collective knowledge by having a discussion.” We were blindsided by this turn of events. Here we were thinking we could have a relaxing time in the lead-up to the award ceremony, when we were suddenly dropped into an intellectual cauldron. Everyone was then seated in a large circle, while David walked around acting as the facilitator. Before we had time to catch our breath, the debate began on the topic of “problems to be tackled by the incoming United States administration.” In no time at all, video cameras were rolling and a mic was being passed around among the participants as a lively discussion ensued. Since it would have been pointless to remain as silent observers, we too spoke candidly about our thoughts and feelings. People from think tanks expert in various subjects were present. But a wide range of other participants also spoke based on their own specialist fields, resulting in a very diverse debate. Although we were very surprised to be taking part in a debate kicked off with the justification of “since so many of the award winners are gathered here today,” it was a very rare experience, and we had no choice but to admire David’s idea.

The Leading Global Thinkers of 2016

The editor of Foreign Policy acted as facilitator for a lively discussion



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