Discovering new ways to collaborate: kyu Maru’s latest participant on his time at Sid Lee Toronto

Meet Koji, the latest kyu Maru exchange participant! Koji, a member of Hakuhodo (which is a division of kyu’s parent company Hakuhodo DY Holdings), spent his winter working in Sid Lee’s Toronto office.

We sat down with Koji to hear about his time in Toronto. Learn about his experience below!

1) Tell us about the work you do for HDY.

I have been working at Hakuhodo for 11 years, and worked as a strategist for the whole time. My works include brand marketing and communication strategy, product and service development, digital marketing and more. I also help build marketing and communication strategies for Japanese clients or brands entering foreign countries.

The industry looks so different from when I joined Hakuhodo 11 years ago. Our boundaries as an ad agency are rapidly expanding mainly due to evolution of digital technologies. I’m never bored with these changes, and this is probably why I’m in Hakuhodo and this industry for such a long time.

My current clients include KFC Japan and Mitsubishi Motors. I have been lucky enough to work with some companies from within kyu’s networks for my Mitsubishi Motors project, which is one of the reasons I was interested in this exchange. 

2) Why Sid Lee? What interested you most about the company in the first place?

I always believed in power of creativity — I actually wanted to be a creative myself — and wanted to work closely with creatives. As a strategist, I have faced difficult situations where creatives are less than enthusiastic to work with us because our suggestions can be boring.

I had been hearing that Sid Lee is a creative agency where strategies and creatives collaborate extremely effectively, and I was hoping that I could steal some secrets to their collaboration. The other reason I was interested in Sid Lee was because I simply loved their creative work (with clients like The North Face, Toronto Raptors, etc) that inspire and empower not only the brand but all the people surrounding it

3) What have you enjoyed about working at Sid Lee so far?

I love people’s openness. Everyone is happy to share what they are working on and exchange thoughts and advice regardless of department. I think this openness and respect for each other is key to the strong collaboration that is happening in Sid Lee. The more I experience working at Sid Lee, the more I feel that there is no particular method for effective collaboration. It’s really up to your mindset and how open you can be to other ideas and thoughts. This is definitely what I have enjoyed about Sid Lee so far.

4) What has been most surprising about working at Sid Lee?

I loved and was surprised by how Sid Lee’s office is very different from Hakuhodo’s office.* Hakuhodo’s office is more like a “normal office” where the desks are lined up in order and people are quietly and rigorously dealing with their own business. I am not saying this is negative, but I found Sid Lee’s office to be very different.

In Sid Lee, music is played in the office, and there are many open spaces where people are free to have meeting or a quick chat to exchange their ideas. They even have “Beer Thursdays,” where we are offered some beers.

I was also excited that all the meeting rooms are named in connection with people with the names “Sid” or “Lee.” We have rooms named “Spike,” “Vicious,” and “Bruce.” It might be a small thing, but I love all these differences that give a creative vibe to the office. 

5) What has been your favorite part about living in Toronto? What has been the most difficult or challenging?

I didn’t find any particular difficulties in Toronto except the fierce winter weather where temperature occasionally drop to -20 degrees. But I feel this is a good excuse for me to come back to Toronto again to experience summer!

My favorite part about living in Toronto is the diversity of people. You walk a couple of blocks and you can hear five different language. Sure, there are many countries that are similar, but I feel that Toronto is unique in a way that everyone seems to blend in to the city and respects each other’s differences. I love how people don’t make you feel like a stranger, and make me feel that I am allowed to exist here.

I particularly feel this when I go to Toronto Raptors games, where people from every background are cheering for the same team. I love that atmosphere. This is probably why I’ve already been to five games during my short stay.

*Editor’s Note: Head over to a recently pinned story on kyu’s Instagram, where Koji gave us a virtual tour of Sid Lee Toronto.