DISCO – Opening up new possibilities for content creation with Disruption®︎

26 June 2023

DISCO – Opening up new possibilities for content creation with Disruption®︎

STORIES spotlights a team within TBWA\HAKUHODO that brings changes to the world through their unique expertise.
In this episode, we are introducing our inhouse contents creation lab “DISCO”. It is the team that embody TBWA\HAKUHODO’s philosophy “Disruption®︎” with its disruptive contents production including “SHELLMET” – a helmet made from recycled discarded scallop shells, “Hi Toilet” – the world’s first voice-command public toilet, “Homecoming Songs (Okaeri Ongakusitsu)” – the music documentary made in collaboration with NHK, or “THE FIRST TAKE”, a Youtube channel that has suggested a new way of enjoying music and disrupted the music industry.
Last year, DISCO team won Silver in the “Production Company of the Year” category of Campaign Asia-Pacific’s Agency of the Year 2022 (Japan/Korea)!

We talked to Hirotaka Fukatsu, DISCO’s Head of Production / Executive Producer, about his thoughts on DISCO’s content production and future goals.

Q. Can you describe what kind of team the “DISCO” is?

DISCO was launched in September 2019 to embody TBWA\HAKUHODO’s philosophy of “Disruption” in the context of content creation. With the environment surrounding the video industry undergoing major changes, as an in-house production team, we aim to produce content while maintaining both high quality and speed, while working closely with creators within TBWA\HAKUHODO. We never limit ourselves to the realm of advertising production – we are also involved in the creation of branded content that connects companies and society, product creation that leads to solutions to social issues, and the creation of original content that moves people’s heart.

The name “DISCO” is an acronym for “DISruption COntents”. It is a reflection of our philosophy of accelerating “Disruption” in content creation, but it also comes from the fact that the first floor of our office building used to be “the legendary disco” that symbolized the bubble era in Japan.

Q. Tell us about the members of the DISCO team.

DISCO – Opening up new possibilities for content creation with Disruption®︎

I started my career at a video production company, first working primarily in commercial production. After working for an advertising company, I joined TBWA\HAKUHODO about 10 years ago.

The other members also come from various backgrounds, including a motion graphic designer who originally worked at TBWA New York office. Our outside partners also have various strengths. For example, in music, we have partnered with a company based in Los Angeles – as we believe the lyrics, pronunciation, and melody of the music must be world-class for Japan-originated content to resonate with the world. We also have a committee member of SDGs Japan who can advice and take leadership in content that tackles social issues.

This team with full of diversity has the vibe I felt at the TBWA LA Office, where I was seconded for about six months – such as flat and casual relationships and emphasis on “co-creation”. We not only work together and communicate closely but also hang out privately, and share information about things we are interested in through chat. All these close communication is how ideas are born.

DISCO – Opening up new possibilities for content creation with Disruption®︎

Moving hearts of the artists moves the hearts of the viewers

Q. There are many Disruprtive music contents that DISCO team has been creating, such as “THE FIRST TAKE” or NHK’s music documentary “Homecoming Songs”. Tell us about the things you value in planning and production?

To quote the words from our creative director and film director of “Homecoming Songs” Keisuke Shimizu, what is important in the “music” related content is to move the hearts of the artists to bring out the “real and intimate feeling”.

For example, “Homecoming Songs” is a project in which artists are given a notebook, “Homecoming Notebook,” and are asked to follow the instructions to meet their former teachers or visit memorable places of the childhood, and sing in the music room of their alma mater, with a sentiment evoked from their past. Going down the intimate memory lane and give a live performance is a quite a mental burden for artists than just singing so at first it wasn’t easy for us to get many artists to agree to perform. Even so, thanks to the negotiating skills of DISCO’s producer, who has excellent casting skills, we were able to get Sota Hanamura of Da-ice to appear in the first episode, rapper Awich in the second, and Hattori of Macaroni Empitsu in the third episode.

It was the first time for us to hear directly from the artists after their performance, thanking us for the program project. We also focused on the quality of the images and film. As a documentary, the entire film was shot with a single camera to allow the artists to be as natural as possible without being too conscious of camera. It was also important to shoot in high image and sound quality in the music room, an irregular environment for a music program. As a result of this environment, the artists were able to focus deeply and then sing the songs they want to perform at the moment, amidst the unprecedented emotions the “homecoming” evoked.

This program is also the first film direction for Keisuke Shimizu, the creative director of “THE FIRST TAKE”. The common denominator of both content is that the artists’ seriousness moves the hearts of audience. It was such a rewarding and wholesome project for us.

DISCO – Opening up new possibilities for content creation with Disruption®︎

Q. What are the things you find difficult or challenging at times?

As DISCO, I think it is necessary to take on a new challenge and innovation each time we work on a project. But I sometimes realize that if I am not cautious, I can end up with a mediocre result that does not offer any innovative or disruptive insights.

The works that DISCO handles include not only independent projects initiated by our members, but also, of course, client works. I think we always need to consider what kind of Disruptions we can create as DISCO in response to the client’s needs. We are continuing to search for ways to challenge the world.

DISCO – Opening up new possibilities for content creation with Disruption®︎

Q. I imagine the COVID-19 during the past few years has brought about changes in the production process. What changes have you seen?

The way we communicate with our team members has changed. I felt that we need to be more proactive to get connected with members and acquire information – not doing this will diminish the connections and attachment amaong the team members. With the introduction of hybrid working style it is hard to be aware of what others are doing and get inspiration from peers’ work. So we always try to create an environment where it is easy to recognize what interesting works our colleagues are creating.

The environment for the shoot itself required meticulous control to prevent infection, but its positive legacy is that technological evolution has boosted the content itself. For example, we feel that being able to smoothly monitor and check from remote reduces the number of people on set and allows the performers to bring out more of their true nature, such as in documentary content.

Creating content that is not only exciting but leads to solutions to social issues

Q. In the era of abundance of various contents, what are your values DISCO team and what kind of works do you want to challenge for in the future?

※ shots from various events using “Para Pinpong Table” that DISCO produced

※ shots from various events using “Para Pinpong Table” that DISCO produced

I believe we need to convey something even more “real” in the future. I believe that people in the world have come to perceive “deception” as things that have been over-processed, and many people feel that they want to see things that do not lie. This is something I would like to keep in mind when producing.

As for what I would like to challenge in the future, I would like to keep producing content that solves social issues, as I have been working on for some time. For example, our team is passionate about tackling climate change, and we are looking at the opportunities of creating content that communicates such social issues from a perspective similar to entertainment, while involving experts of the fields.

DISCO wants to influence and move the hearts of those who see our content in a positive way. There are many contents out there that just pursue fun, but that is not what we are aiming for. We always want to solve social issues through our content, and we want to interest our viewers with our unique approach and output only DISCO can create.

In short – DISCO’s goal is to bring disruptions to the social issues with our original contents!

It is a time where anyone can create and share contents so easily. And as content abounds, it is not just a matter of creating enjoyable content – what matters is the content that moves the hearts of performers and viewers alike. Or the content that conveys social issues in a creative approach and presentation. These are what TBWA\Hakuhodo’s DISCO team continues to produce with overwhelming quality. True to its name, DISCO will continue to cause all sorts of creative Disruption and create a swell in the hearts and minds of people.

We will contine to introduce our proud teams and pirates at STORIES! Please stay tuned!

Communication Team (koho@tbwahakuhodo.co.jp)