The copywriter at Dentsu Inc. shares her frustrations and joys of working in the industry in Tokyo, writes LBB’s Natasha Patel
Marina Danjo’s entry into the advertising industry wasn’t quite what she expected growing up. While she was always into art of some form of another, the now copywriter at Dentsu Japan wanted to be a hairdresser originally. That is until she took an interested in art under the subtle guidance of her father, who was a keen architect and interior designer. “He set up a whiteboard in our house so that we could scribble things on it anytime. The experience of drawing a lot of pictures and being exposed to a lot of art may have been the starting point for wanting to create something in my own work.”
From there Marina studied painting and contemporary art at Musashino Art University in Tokyo and coupled with five years of pre-university art school, she has had nine years of art training in total. “My experience at the prep school actually had a bigger impact on me than university. The entrance exam required many abstract and mysterious elements, such as drawing pictures with themes such as “Everybody” or “My Room”. Through training for the exam, I learned not only painting techniques, but also how to think about things I’ve never thought of before, and how to express these thoughts.”
Post-graduation Marina took on a part-time role at an animation company but found that working on background drawing wasn’t harnessing her creativity to its fullest. So, after many hours of browsing the internet using the worlds ‘creative’ and internship’, she stumbled upon Dentsu’s careers page and the rest is history. “I actually started my career as a copywriter and my first job was to write a tagline for a banner ad for a mixed martial arts competition. I would never have believed a day would come when someone like myself who’s into art and movies would give so much thought to mixed martial arts.” This particular project is something that Marina refers back to when discussing her favourite part of what she does: “I like the fact that what I do provides unexpected encounters with the world where someone, such as myself, who has studied art can create advertisements for mixed martial arts.”
Talking about the piece of work that really changed her career, Marina finds it hard to pick just one: “There are two projects that come to mind: A Kabuki exhibition design titled ‘Eating Kabuki with Your Fingers’ held in Kyoto, and my work on The Hoshi Awards for Scientific Imagination in Literature’s ‘Personal Fuel’.” Both of these were poster productions, as opposed to television commercials and the challenge of design concepts, visuals and crafting ideas were ones that Marina believes took her “beyond my role as a copywriter” – plus thanks to the projects she was circulating on the award circuits.
Living and working in Tokyo during Covid-19 has been a challenging experience. The city hasn’t gone into a full lockdown during the pandemic, but there’s been an increase in remote working and a reduction of in-person meeting and collaboration – something she believes is beneficial for creative discussions: “I feel it’s better to meet and talk to people in person for creative meetings. I also want more time for discussions that have nothing to do with work.” And as she looks at the industry and the changes that can be made, one that Marina is especially bothered by is the differentiation between different types of expertise. “My specialty is copywriting, but I also plan designs, make concepts and come up with visual ideas.
“At the same time, the art directors I often work with give me ideas for words and offer various opinions on what I write. I believe that it is possible to have a relationship of trust and talk about each other’s expertise, and teams that are not bound by titles and roles can come up with ideas more flexibly and, as a result, the industry as a whole could improve.”
Outside of work, Marina says she is introverted and serious while being optimistic and doing things at her own pace takes great pleasure from watching her two cats eating snacks and also paintings. “I like Marlene Dumas, Laura Owens, and Luc Tuymans. When I was a teenager, I didn’t have money, so I printed out their pictures from the internet and put them in a file to make an original art book. Now that I’m an adult, it is very exciting to go to exhibitions and see the real thing.”
This innovative way to channel her passion for art in her younger days has stuck with Marina throughout her working career too: “I’m not the type of person who has big goals; if I am going to put forth the effort, I want to create the highest quality work possible.”