Icons+Innovators

Yoshihiro Yagi

EXECUTIVE CREATIVE DIRECTOR
AT DENTSU INC.

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YOSHIHIRO YAGI, EXECUTIVE CREATIVE DIRECTOR AT DENTSU INC., IS A RENOWNED FIGURE IN THE ADVERTISING INDUSTRY, KNOWN FOR HIS INNOVATIVE AND ARTISTIC APPROACH. An award-winning creative, Yagi has received numerous accolades, making him one of the most respected creatives in Asia.

Starting as an art director, Yagi quickly made a name for himself by blending traditional Japanese aesthetics with modern advertising techniques. His work for clients like East Japan Railway, Panasonic, and Honda has been acclaimed for its visual impact and creativity.

In 2024, Yagi was instrumental in Dentsu's new global brand proposition, ‘Innovating to Impact’; highlighting the company's commitment to transformative creativity.

Yagi’s philosophy emphasizes simplicity and emotional resonance, valuing intuitive and subjective design over purely data-driven approaches. His projects, like the redesign of Pocky as a communication tool, demonstrate innovative thinking and an eye for brand redefinition.

With Yagi’s My Japan Railway campaign set to steam through Cannes this year, his status as an icon and innovator is certain. Here, he speaks on his first Grand Prix win and cites a certain Jedi Master as an influence.

What’s your favourite piece of work from the last 12 months?

Every year, I am in charge of the design for a Cannes Lions exhibition at the Ad Museum in Tokyo.

It is a great learning experience for all my teammates, and I am grateful for it, so I’d say it’s this.

How long have you been coming to Cannes, and what’s your fondest memory of the festival?

About 15 years. Not every year, of course.

I've been a judge, a speaker, and even when I'm not, the festival is a source of inspiration for me.

The most memorable moment was being on stage with the director, cameraman, and many of the team to receive a Grand Prix. Cannes is a long way from Japan, so it was quite a miracle to have everyone there at the same time.

Are awards important?

I believe that we need a variety of feedback to help us grow.

And being judged by different perspectives from around the world allows us to get in touch with our true potential.

If there was one thing you could change about the advertising industry, what would it be?

Ensure the ethical standards of all individuals.

Who or what has most influenced your career?

Master Yoda. (laughs)

The Cannes Lions festival is also important to me because it gives me a sense of being connected to others around the world.

What piece of work makes you think, ‘I wish I’d made that’?

I have always loved Evian's Water Boy film.

Such a perfect idea, cute, cool, and good music,

It's the best.

Tell us one thing about yourself that most people won’t know.

I would like to introduce my two sons, Minato and Keito.

Minato means “a wide harbor” and keito means “the song of the valley.”

We named the boys in relation to the circulation of water and nature: how mountain streams flow into the ocean, where it becomes rain and eventually goes back to the mountains.

Icons+Innovators

Over the course of this week we will be celebrating some of the people who are at the heart of advertising's creative landscape, those who - whether creatives, directors, producers or other craftspeople - have made a lasting impact on the business.

Alongside specially commissioned portraits, taken by photographer Julian Hanford, we will be asking our subjects about the work they most admire, both new and old, what Cannes means to them, and what they might change about the industry if they could.

This interview series was created with

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Icons + Innovators. Yoshihiro Yagi, Dentsushots
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