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How’d You Get In: Rei Inamoto

Posted on February 28, 2012 and read 4,985 times

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The Chief Creative Officer of AKQA holds a special place in our hearts at IHAVEANIDEA. Rei Inamoto’s collaboration as the first Tomorrow Awards Chairman of the Monster Judges was key to helping shape the category-less, future-facing event. One of the most influential, important and accomplished creatives in our beloved industry, Rei is originally from Tokyo and spent his childhood and teenage years in both Japan and Europe, later studying in the U.S.

Rei joined AKQA in 2004, delivering creative solutions for Nike, Xbox, Kraft and Visa, as well as bring AKQA high accolades such as Agency of the Year, one of Fast Company’s 50 Most Innovative Companies, and one of Advertising Age’s Top Agencies of the Decade.

He has served on the Titanium and Integrated Jury at Cannes and was named one of Creativity Magazine’s “Creativity 50,” but how did Rei Inamoto break into the advertising business?

• • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • • •

rei inamoto portrait 2011 261x261 Howd You Get In: Rei InamotoWell, I didn’t.

That’s the answer I give when I get asked this question.

I’ve always had a very cynical point of view about advertising. To an extent, I’m still in denial that I’m supposed to be in advertising.

When I was in college, I started as a Fine Arts major and then added Computer Science as my second degree half way through. I didn’t really know what I wanted to do after I graduated. But I was fascinated by the possibility of technology as applied to creativity.

I was interested in connecting the dots between seemingly different things and fields.

As I was graduating and started to look for a place to work, I came across a guy in Tokyo named Noriyuki Tanaka. He was a hybrid of an artist, art director, designer and more – a true creative in many ways. He had his own studio there and I got to be an apprentice. It was him, his designer and me as an assistant.

His work was extremely diverse. The types of work he did included: posters, book covers, album covers, promotions, illustrations, window displays, event direction, exhibitions, music videos, interior design, architecture, etc. Advertising wasn’t really what he did. But what he did became advertising.

To this day, the experience I had there remains to be more diverse than any other place or agency I’ve ever come across directly or indirectly.

It was the best first job to have to get started in any creative field. But also, it was the toughest job. Ever.

My work there was literally everything: designing, comping, answering phone calls, making tea and coffee, fetching and delivering materials to publishers and clients, cleaning (including the bathroom), etc.

And in Asia, and particularly in Tokyo, people in the creative industry work insane hours. His studio was more insane. When I interviewed, he said, “I need you to come in at 10 or 11am and stay until the last train (which is usually midnight – 1am), and work 6 days a week.” He was being modest.

I don’t really recommend that kind of working hours to anyone. But everything became – or at least seemed – easier after that.

I started out not making ads. Which is quite ironic because we say this at AKQA:

“The best advertising isn’t advertising.”

I guess dots do connect down the line.





  • Maxwell A. Davis

    This was a quick & good read. Thank you!

  • http://www.facebook.com/winnyshenjw Winny Shen

    A very inspiring story, thanks for sharing!  I will remember “The best advertising isn’t advertising.”


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