Media Mix, Jan. 1, 2017

Dentsu executives

Dentsu executives

Happy new year. Here’s this week’s Media Mix, the usual year-end roundup. Due to space issues I didn’t mention one major player this year that deserves all the notoriety it received: Dentsu. I have nothing really to add to the coverage of the advertising giant’s crimes with regard to overworking its employees, but I don’t think enough attention was paid to the general harm it does to the media climate. The suicide of one of its young staff only a year ago gave the mass media an excuse to look at the company’s culture and describe it for what it is: oppressive and demanding. But that myopic view doesn’t take in the totality of Dentsu’s evils, which are mainly manifested in the way it controls a press that relies on advertising to keep it solvent as a profitable enterprise. Interestingly, it was Shukan Economist, a business magazine, that published the only really thorough expose of Dentsu’s malign operations this year, explaining its stranglehold on television and print advertising and the fear it strikes in the hearts of editors, only to negate the whole purport of the article by claiming at the end of the series that much of the insider criticism of the company amounts to urban legend. Dentsu’s imperious handling of the Olympics is notorious overseas but hardly mentioned by the local press. It deserved the infamous Black Kigyo Award it received last week as the year’s worst employer, but Dentsu’s venality goes beyond staff persecution. No single entity is more responsible for the Japanese media’s habit of “omitting” inconvenient facts than Dentsu, simply because any time a potential advertiser is caught up in scandal or criminality, the press report around it, afraid to challenge Dentsu’s primal check on their bottom line.

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