CategoryG07. Corporate Purpose & Social Responsibility
Idea Creation DENTSU INC. Tokyo, JAPAN
Production 2 YAYA INC. Tokyo, JAPAN
Production 4 SPLUCK INC. Tokyo, JAPAN
Additional Company EDP GRAPHIC WORKS Tokyo, JAPAN


Name Company Position
Michihiko Yanai Tokyo University of the Arts Executive Producer
Tatsuya Hamajima Hamajima Design Inc. Executive Creative Director/Art Director
Reietsu Hashimoto Dentsu Inc. Planner/Interactive Creative Director
Kimimoto Nishijima Dentsu Inc. Account Executive
Midori Fukui Dentsu Inc. Account Executive
Midori Fukui Dentsu Inc. Account Executive
Shingo Hiraoka Dentsu Inc. Social Advisor
Tadashi Inokuchi PR Consulting Dentsu Inc. Chief PR Planner
Tomomi Hosoda PR Consulting Dentsu Inc. PR Director

Why is this work relevant for PR?

COVID’s spread to Japan in 2020 presented Tokyo University of the Arts with two serious issues: how to reinforce its positioning as the country’s unparalleled seat of arts education and learning, and how to accomplish this virtually, when all arts activities were suddenly online and competing for oxygen. TUA challenged its 130-year tradition by creating an Instagram platform for an online arts festival where young artists could showcase works “in a rich chaos” as never attempted before. Staging the event this way represented image risk for TUA, but its nerve was rewarded – by wide media exposure and government tributes.


The COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted the arts and artists in Japan, just as it has worldwide, with galleries forced to close, events cancelled, and exhibitions and concerts postponed. In early 2020 as the virus was just taking hold, a survey among Japan’s arts and culture community found 80% of respondents unable to pursue artistic activities and already suffering falling income. With the Japanese government seemingly unmoved by their plight and reluctant to provide proactive support, TUA recognised that this problem presented an opportunity to cement its positioning as “a wellspring of creativity that can change the world”. TUA decided that in response to the closure of physical art spaces, it would mount an online arts festival to help struggling young artists present their works. The 130-year-old university would use crowdfunding to raise funds for prizes and elicit the cooperation of established artists and receptive media.

Describe the creative idea (20% of vote)

The agency’s idea was provide young artists without connections to galleries and struggling financially due to COVID-19 disruptions with an opportunity to participate in an online arts festival coordinated by TUA and to showcase their work to as wide and diverse an audience as possible. The festival would align with TUA’s three core goals of realizing a society enriched by the infinite possibilities of art, contribute to the promotion of Japanese art and culture, and demonstrate that the value and significance of creative universities such as TUA should not be overlooked. The overarching objective was to alter the perceptions of governments at all levels to view cultural and artistic activities as indispensable for melding communities together – especially during times of great anxiety and stress – and to recognise that these essential elements of society deserve financial backing.

Describe the PR strategy (30% of vote)

An Instagram platform would be established and artists invited to contribute works. Instagram was chosen because it allows artists to directly link with users, enabling the exhibitors to build followings. Also, the “like” function on Instagram would encourage as many people as possible to participate and judge works. Social media users would also evaluate the creations, and their likes would be a reference point for judges. The 48 prospective prize winners would be identified through initial then final subsequent screenings. Blurring the boundaries between different art forms would be achieved by having the expert judging panel evaluate works cross-genre. This additional break with festival tradition would see musicians, designers and creative writers appraising works inside and outside their areas of expertise. Sympathetic media outlets would also promote a wider discourse about art’s value to society and supporting media outlets would showcase the festival and its aims for their specific audiences.

Describe the PR execution (20% of vote)

Entries were called in February 2021. The online festival comprised two stages. First, works by over 100 artists that had passed the initial screening were posted to social media and judged in a second screening by a panel of artists. The just under 40 artists who passed the second screening received prize money to help support their activities. Works successful in the second screening were posted alongside each other on the website and on the Instagram platform in a cross-genre display encompassing paintings, videos, music, and more. Button interactions encouraged users to keep looking at more artists’ work, helping to build their networks. In the special page, the artists’ profiles, descriptions of their works, and up to 10 images per work were posted. An online seminar on YouTube in May announced the winners, each of whom shared prize money totaling JPY 3.6 million ($31,300).

List the results (30% of vote)

The festival attracted over 300 submissions from more than 200 young artists, while prominent architect Kengo Kuma and fashion designer Junko Koshino joined the judging panel as volunteers. The campaign enabled TUA to confirm the public’s positive response to online exhibitions that combine both audio and visual arts, encouraging it to incorporate this reaction into its educational curriculum. In editorial placements, cooperating media outlets, including Forbes, WIRED, ELLE, and GQ, emphasized the value of art and its significance – the TUA’s core values. In total, approximately 700 domestic and foreign media outlets covered the campaign. Moreover, artists who participated are now being approached by media for general comments, quotes and interviews, increasing their exposure. At the festival’s conclusion, Cultural Affairs Agency Chief Shunichi Tokura urged then Prime Minister Suga to swiftly launch support measures for the artistic community, commenting that “cultural and artistic activities … maintain the health and happiness of society as a whole and are essential elements of our life.” A gallery owner’s direct contact to the festival led to works by some artists featuring in an actual exhibition starting July in Biscuit Gallery in Shibuya, Tokyo – a venue renowned for featuring up-and-coming young artists from Japan and overseas. TUA deemed the campaign and festival so successful that it is planning to collaborate with other arts universities, organizations, and local communities to stage similar festivals regularly. Through TUA’s initiatives including this festival, its mid-term management plan earned it the government’s highest evaluation among 79 Japanese national universities.

Please tell us how the brand purpose inspired the work

As Japan's only national arts university, Tokyo University of the Arts' mission is transforming society through the power of art (art innovation). However, Japan has considered artistic activities nonessential and non-urgent during the pandemic, and its support was heavily delayed in comparison to other countries' considerate responses. If the government and administration don't help, we must support artistic activities ourselves. Particularly, surveys showed that young Japanese artists are facing instability in their activities, and 80% of them have difficulties in living. It's hard to give artists in-person venues for their activities due to COVID-19, so the university—a leader in promoting the arts—held an exhibition allowing artwork to be presented and evaluated online, which is usually avoided in the art world. While discussions on how to evaluate the artwork (through social media, etc.) are held, interest increased and positive results ensued, including artists getting more offers through galleries.