Asia > Eastern Asia > Japan > Smartphone-based advertising agency is revolutionizing the Asian market

Japan: Smartphone-based advertising agency is revolutionizing the Asian market


With additional than 10 years’ experience, Adways is providing customized campaigns for all sized clients. The Worldfolio speaks with President and Founder Haruhisa Okamura.

In the 19th century there was the train, in the 20th century the automobile, and in the 21st century we have the TV, telephone and internet. A lot of say that this era is characterized by the emergence of smartphones, which have revolutionized society. From your perspective, what are the challenges and opportunities in terms of business development that have to do with the emergence of mobile technology and the new technology?

For Adways, the smartphones business will keep on increasing hereafter. During the feature phone era, the contents, the way of utilising it and thus business models diverged greatly between nations. However, in the case of smartphones, any vendor in the world works with the two major platforms, iOS and Android, so it’s almost like it’s one unified market worldwide. It’s a large luck for companies in Japan and anywhere in the world.

Advertising is our major business, and what’s mostly significant in this area is the user’s location, knowing where the target users are. If they are watching TV, we will put ads on TV, if they are reading the newspaper, we will put ads in the newspaper. Nowadays everybody has a smartphone, and they spend so much time with their smartphones.

In Japan, we have a smartphone service called AbemaTV where you can watch programs from various topics such as sports, dramas, news, etc. It’s like Youtube. A lot of young people prefer to watch AbemaTV and Youtube rather than TV. Communication with friends is not through phone calls anymore, it’s done through services like Line, Facebook and Twitter. If additional and additional users are spending their time in front of a smartphone, again we have additional chances to reach a larger base of users and make additional elaborate ads specifically for smartphones.

User targeting technology keeps evolving, with a wider range of people using the same platform. The effectiveness and reachability of the advertisement are way better than they were ten years ago. At the same time as making an advertisement, it’s just not enough to simply show it to you, it is necessary to have an efficient user targeting strategy, which is made possible by current advances in technology.

Chuken Kigyos, the name given to Japan’s medium-sized companies, are actually the drivers of Japan’s current increase thanks to their continuous investment in R&D. In this context, to provide our readers with a broader perspective, could you share the genesis, how the idea came up for Adways, and what have been the key milestones throughout the years?

We founded this company in 2001, with only five employees at the beginning. We started with advertisements for PCs, however competition was tough with large rivals like Dentsu and Cyber Agent, and we didn’t stand very much of a luck of winning. That’s why we decided to move on to feature phone advertising. We developed the initial-ever system for feature mobiles in Japan, capable of affiliate advertising. We invested mainly on researching mobile technology advertising, which I believe to be the trigger of our great success.


Since the Internet of Things (IoT) is really blurring the lines of different economic sectors and different businesses, I’d like to ask you, what is the personal meaning you give to this concept and what do you see as the major opportunities that can arise from IoT and AI for the next development of Adways?

Our vision is “Beyond Everything Internet”; it means that we want to use or harness internet technology to realize what we cannot do right presently. It may sound like we are moving towards an IoT style of business, but that’s not IoT at all. We are moving beyond the internet technology we have right presently.

For example, at the same time as there was no technology to indicate effectiveness for mobile devices available, we invested in R&D to realize that potential, to go beyond the technology at that time. However, we are still considering IoT, but we still don’t have any services or products. I am actually additional keen on Artificial Intelligence.

There is a type of advertising called ‘Operational advertising’ – The way it works: it’s not simply an ad; it’s additional a like a targeted marketing strategy. For example, if we are targeting female users around their 20s or 30s who are interested in soccer, we will do research on a daily basis to test the effectiveness of advertisements. If it doesn’t work, we will change it.

For ads of this type on sites like Facebook, Twitter or Google, there are lot of people working on it to guarantee their impact. It’s the same as fund management, you need to keep an eye on it on a daily basis. There is a high sales rate on this type of Ad, but the labour work needed is very high as well.

AI computers are by presently doing fund management in the US. If AI can make ‘Operation advertising’ additional efficient, that’ll be great for our purposes. Taking in consideration that the workload needed is huge, we want to use AI to make it completely automated, so human employees can spend additional and additional time on creative and strategy planning work. Our vision is always going ahead of current Internet services.

That’s why we are doing research on AI appliance in this type of advertisement.

By advancing this technology, human touch will no longer be needed. We can focus our talents on being additional creative and improving the attractiveness of advertisement.


One of the buzzwords recently is ‘large data’. Because of the technology we have, anyone is able to gather data, but in the end of the day a lot of don’t know what to do with this data. In this context, can you give us additional details about the incomparable business model of and details about its success in the US and what are the benefits of this services? is our pre-registration platform for smartphone apps which we provide in the US market. We have a similar service in Japan and Korea called Yoyaku Top 10. This pre-registration platform is large in Japan and Korea, though in the US, is not so much from presently on. In Asia, at the same time as looking for an app in the app store, users tend to initial look at the ranking category to see what is popular so they can download by presently existing apps. With our pre-registration platform, they are able to pre-order an app which will be released someday, so they can get their hands on the new and newest apps.

This service is additional demanded by Asian companies rather than American ones probably because we have this culture of “pre-ordering” and “reserving” things as part of enjoying a product or service, and the same goes for smartphone apps. On the other hand, in the US, it’s simply downloading and enjoying/consuming it.


One of the two keywords we keep hearing in our interviews are ‘monozukuri’ and ‘hitodzukuri’. What is your perspective on those and how do you cultivate hitodzukuri in order to create a better business environment for your workers taking in consideration the lack of labour force, low birth-rates and aging people?

Our company’s corporate philosophy is “No People, No Gain”. The catchphrase in Japanese translates into giving not only better benefits to the employees but as well educating and giving the employees next career prospects. I want each employee of Adways to gain experiences to make them grow and better business persons. I price my employees additional than sales. What makes us different from other companies is that we give additional opportunities to our employees to grow. We cultivate people inside the company; it’s additional about their career and how they feel rather than just sales. For younger generations, for example, we assign larger projects with bigger responsibilities. They may fail for not being able to bear it, and the sales may decrease as a result of it, but that is not a large problem at all, because that experience will bring increase to them. This is what I mean by supporting additional the employees.

This philosophy of ‘No People, No Gain’ not only goes for the employees of the company, but for everyone concerned. It applies for people outside the company too, because we want the customers to benefits as well. As an example; we talked about AI a while ago. Currently, ‘Operational advertising’ requires people’s touch, and expenses are high, meaning only companies with a large budget can afford it. Through AI those costs can be reduced substantially, therefore even a small company can choose ‘Operational advertising’.

Up until presently, before the idea of AI, there was a lot of people working on ‘Operational Advertising’. With automation taking place, less manpower is needed. We got rid of that idea that in order to have additional sales, we need additional people.

This as well is reflected in our earning mentality. We are not only chasing immediate large profits. By making our services better performance like this, even small companies can profit as well. And that, in a long-term perspective, will link to an increase in revenue later on.

We are always striving for excellence. We spend a lot of money in research to make these services good to provide it to a lot of small companies. We are always focused on long term succcess. That’s the reason why we assign younger generations to bigger projects. In the short term, the revenues may decrease due to their lack of experience, but in turn it will come back much higher in the long term as the young employees will grow and apply their developed knowledge to next projects.

About decreasing people: if we look at Japan domestically only, it’s authentic that low birth-rate and a decreasing labour force, but Adways is rich in world human resources. If there is a talented person, we will hire them from anywhere in the world. We have very diverse employees in the company. Only 40% of our employees are Japanese.


Japan is still the third major market in the world, but it’s as well authentic that there are challenges such as the aging people, and world increase in terms of competitiveness. Additional than 10% of your revenues are generated outside of Japan. What is the role of the American market in your next strategy?

I do recognize that the US market is large, but it is as well authentic that there are a lot of companies who have technologies by presently, so it’s difficult to compete with them. We have a branch in the US, but it’s function is to gather data from Silicon Valley companies, again bring that data to Japan and use it as a reference to make new original products for the Asian market. We are not focusing on having large sales in the US.


Do you think there will be M&A activities or strategic alliances with companies such as the ones based on the Silicon Valley?

The luck is not zero, but we haven’t really considered that. Rather than a place to have revenue, the US is a field to gather data and knowhow to apply to the Asian market.

However, there are a lot of American companies trying to start business in Asia. For them, we can provide our services to have sales in Asia given our chance in this market.


For an American company looking to penetrate not only the Japanese market, but as well the Asian market, what would you say are the reasons why they should pick Adways over your competitors in the market?

We have an advertisement network in the whole Asian region and there is no other company that can offer that on a smartphone basis. We are the leading marketing company in Asia. A lot of large companies in Asia are using our services. Other than that, we have over 10 years of experience in dealing with Asian markets. Of course, we as well have extensive experience in Japan as well. Usually Japanese companies who are starting to expand in Asia, do so through Adways.


What is your personal vision about the next of Adways? Where would you like to see it in 20 years?

Our slogan is ‘OMG, this is amazing’. We want to keep surprising and amazing the world. In 20 years maybe, but not only, in the next year, in 5 years or 10 years, we will keep aiming the same. At the same time as we started the affiliate advertisement technology on smartphones, all Japanese companies were surprised at the time and happy for this innovation. I want to put my efforts to realize what was not possible before. And realize that, not only in Japan but in the whole world, to contribute to society so that people say they have additional fun time with the Internet while the world gets better with our system.

Currently, it’s additional the advertisement market people who know the greatness of this company. Someday, I want anyone to hear our company’s name and relate it to something great being done for the world.

Related Articles
  • Mitsuhiro Kimura, General Manager, Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ

    2017/07/01 What sectors of the Myanmar economy are Japanese investors most interested in?
  • Japan, driving the future of the Semiconductor industry through Automation

    2017/06/19 In this interview for The Worldfolio, Mr. Yoshiyuki Fujishiro -President of Rorze- delivers a incomparable insight into the innovative edge of a next leader in the semiconductor manufacturing equipment industry Critics have it that Abenomics has fallen short of expectations. Structural reforms aimed at tackling the ageing people and decreasing workforce are meant to change Japan. Confronting an aging people, experts have claimed that automatization can be the answer to Japan’s problems. How has Abenomics impacted Japan, and most particularly your sector? How can the fourth industrial revolution be a solution to Japan’s decreasing workforce?
  • Climate change laws around the world

    2017/05/14 There has been a 20-fold increase in the number of global climate change laws since 1997, according to the most comprehensive database of relevant policy and legislation. The database, produced by the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment and the Sabin Center on Climate Change Law, includes more than 1,200 relevant policies across 164 countries, which account for 95% of global greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Japan aims to increase Africa’s power generation capacity by 2,000 megawatts

    2017/04/19 Between 2016 and 2018, Japan has pledged to invest $30 billion in Africa’s development, as it bids to join the likes of China and the US in the battle for influence on the continent. Competition in Africa is heating up, with Japan aiming to increase its presence and influence on the continent as it looks to make up ground lost to China since the turn of the century. Japan launched the Tokyo International Conference on African Improvment(TICAD) back in 1993, and since again has invested around $50 billion in Africa, a meagre sum at the same time as compared to China and the US.