What comes to mind first when you hear the word “PayPay”? Payments, campaigns, coupons… although there are quite a few to choose from, many of you would have recalled our commercials.
In this article, we introduce our Ads & Branding Team of the Promotion Department, who have contributed immensely to the overwhelming recognition that PayPay now enjoys. They are in charge of awareness campaigns and brand management activities, including commercials.
It may seem like a chic job on the surface, but it is tedious, requires much attention, and a great deal of hard work. We will delve into both the struggles of the team and what they are in it for.
Asami Matsunaga (top left):
Joined Softbank BB Corp. in 2006 as a new graduate and was involved in service planning for SoftBank Hikari/SoftBank Air in the Hikari Service Planning Team. She was member to the Campaign Planning Team for the above services since 2010. After a stint as a Hikari Advisor at a shop for a year, she became a member of PayPay in April 2018. Currently, she is the team leader of the Ads & Branding Team in the Promotion Department. She works from Shizuoka utilizing the WFA system, and her hobbies are sewing and asset management.
Takaya Iwashita (bottom):
Joined eAccess Corporation (now SoftBank Corp.) in 2013. After being involved in call center operations and SB shop storefront system design, he started working for PayPay in October 2018. He likes to play games and take a once-a-month trip.
Kazuyuki Hotokezaka (middle left):
After working for a photography agency and a video production company, he joined SoftBank Corp. in 2012. Then, after being a UI/UX director of apps and services as well as working in promotion planning, he moved to PayPay in February 2019. He enjoys exercising, watching movies, and reading manga.
Please tell us about the duties of the Ads & Branding Team, Promotion Department, Marketing Division, and your personal scope of responsibility.
Matsunaga: First off, I’d like to talk about the team as a whole. The key KPI we focus on is to boost people’s intent to use PayPay. The team is responsible for the overall strategy and budget management of the Promotion Department. In the area of cognitive marketing, which the team is in charge of, we conduct mass advertising, local area marketing, local government promotions, baseball team-related activities, social media operations, product promotions, and updating app themes known as “kisekae.” Another job for the team is brand management. This is run by 6 team members and covers a broad range of tasks, including PayPay brand management, character operation, and name development.
Iwashita: I’m mainly responsible for local area marketing, which is done in campaigns and promotions with local governments. I’m also in charge of strategy and policy planning related to the naming rights of SoftBank Hawks and FUKUOKA PayPay Dome.
Hotokezaka: I am in charge of the planning, production, and operation of TV commercials and digital ads for the purpose of increasing awareness, as well as verifying their effectiveness. I also take care of the development and operation of the PayPay character “Paype,” securing collaboration projects with other companies’ IP (characters), and PayPay brand management.
Tell us how you each feel about the atmosphere of the team.
Matsunaga: We have a lot of upbeat personalities on our team! Our members actively exchange information about advertisements and news that are attracting hype. We’re also very active in commenting on what others share! We don’t have regular meetings for the entire team, but we interact with each other proactively, so we don’t have any communication issues. We don’t have to set a certain time to have to talk with teammates. We usually use Slack to communicate within the team, and responses are quick. Basically, I think there are a lot of highly skilled people in the team who can create documents quickly in their spare time. Discussions and taking action also require little time.
Hotokezaka: Since all members often interact with various other teams within the company, I think most of us have high communication and negotiation skills. Meetings are more often lively than quiet, with heated debates. There are times when such meetings result in agreement, but there are also times when the conversation leads to a completely different subject which we talk about for 30 minutes. Some people may consider that as going off topic, but we actually come up with some good ideas in those instances. I think it’s also a sign that we are positive about sharing information that could go on to become a wonderful idea. I think it’s easier to voice your opinion in an atmosphere where people are allowed to speak their mind and keep building on the conversation. Matsunaga-san has such a beautiful smile which makes it easy to talk. Also, because of the nature of our work, we sometimes have to work long hours such as when we go film shooting. But we have a system within the team that allows us to be flexible and adjust our work hours the next day.
Iwashita: Thanks to the large number of young people in the team, I think we often end up going with their flexible work styles and ways of thinking. It’s also true that communication within the team is very active. However, I’m not the type of person who is always at the center of an animated debate. In my case, my Kansai dialect gets too strong if I talk at length, so I try to keep it down (laughs).What has been the most interesting job for you at PayPay and what do you find rewarding?
Matsunaga: Every press announcement that the team has been involved in has been inspiring in many ways, but the sense of accomplishment that comes with media exposure is the most rewarding part of the job. As the supervisor of the presentation materials, it’s thrilling to see the message we develop as PayPay get communicated to the world. The whole team is involved in the announcement, and it’s great to be able to share the sense of accomplishment with all the people involved in the event, including those from other departments.
Iwashita: I created the naming rights for “FUKUOKA PayPay Dome” from scratch. It was an exciting experience because there are very few opportunities to be involved in professional baseball, of which there are only 12 teams in Japan.
Hotokezaka: As for me, it’s always interesting and fun to get involved in projects that require creating something from scratch because it’s a first for PayPay, like creating the character “Paype” or deciding on a new direction for commercials to be aired over the New Year’s holidays.
They all sound like fun. Could you elaborate on the commercials we are so familiar with? What is the process of making them and what difficulties are involved?
Hotokezaka: It takes about three to four months to shoot a typical corporate commercial, but at PayPay, we average about a month, and sometimes even create one in a week. We have famous personalities appear in the commercials and since they usually only have one free day in a month it can’t be helped if you have to scramble to make a commercial with dates that can’t be changed. For example, we may suddenly have to create a campaign commercial and posters, but Miyagawa-san’s shooting date is already next week. Then we have to shoot on that day! So the schedule often becomes hectic. I’m getting used to it now, but it would be rather tough if you can’t enjoy that kind of speed.
Matsunaga: I think that because Hotokezaka-san is investing a lot of effort, PayPay commercials are mass-produced, and happily, many people know about them. Also, since the commercials are flashy, people in the company often envy him for what appears to be a “fun” job. Behind the scenes, though, there is a lot of tedious work that goes into each 15-second commercial that is not visible from the glitzy exterior. Despite all that tremendous amount of effort, Hotokezaka-san is also constantly working alone on all the tasks related to commercial production. Recently, though, we’ve finally gotten more members to work with him. It may appear a coveted position, but I feel our colleagues and people thinking of applying for a similar position need to appreciate all the unseen labor a little more.
Hotokezaka: We probably shouldn’t talk too much about me being the only person doing certain tasks (laughs), but in fact, we released about 180 commercials and web commercials last year. That’s about one in every two days. What I had to keep in mind when creating that many pieces of content was to make sure that they were recognizable as a PayPay commercial in just a second, but also to adjust for the right amount of “impact.” Adjusting the level of impact is one portion of the work that goes into those 15 seconds, as Matsunaga-san mentioned. In commercials, the festive atmosphere that the celebrities exude and the strong impression they leave definitely play a role in increasing awareness of PayPay. However, when the same words and images are repeated over and over again, people who watch the commercials tend to get a bad impression. Lose the balance between the festivity of the celebrities and the impact of PayPay doing something, then you end up with a commercial that people don’t want to watch and that gives the company a bad rap. If both the effect of the personalities and what PayPay is trying to convey are reduced to zero in that 15 seconds, it becomes hard to tell that it’s a PayPay commercial. On the other hand, if you go all-out, the commercial becomes too strong, and it’s harder than expected each time I have to adjust the pauses between cuts. But the commercials, thanks to all those adjustments, also contributed thus far to the growth in the number of users and the high level of attention we’ve received, so in that sense, it’s been very rewarding. There are also many other promotional initiatives that have no precedent among mobile payment service providers, so I consider it a real enjoyable aspect of work to be able to create and deliver a forerunner before any other company. I think it’s harder for people to associate when watching commercials for things which have no precedent, so I always try to make them easy to understand.
Now we would like to hear what’s great about PayPay Dome!
Iwashita: I think it’s unusual for someone to apply for PayPay just to work on the naming rights of a baseball stadium, but as I’m given the opportunity, here goes (laughs)! As I mentioned when introducing my work, I’m involved in the naming rights of FUKUOKA PayPay Dome. What that means is that we have the rights to name a facility, and it is also an advertising method to name the facility after the sponsor company or its service. You often see the name of a corporation or a service in the name of stadiums and halls, right? But dealing with the naming rights of a ballpark is not something that you can do even if you wanted to. Out of the 12 baseball teams in Japan, there are only about eight stadiums for which the naming rights are available, so I was extremely lucky to be given this opportunity. People at work often ask me what the stadium is like, but I always tell them to go and see it for themselves. I think they will know what’s so fantastic about it if they actually experience it and see it both from the inside and outside. The amazing thing is that we are able to create a world in there which is like a precursor to what PayPay is striving for in all of Japan. We often say at presentations that PayPay’s rival is cash, but you can get a foretaste of a cashless future in Fukuoka. In the PayPay Dome, you can see what society would look like if more people used PayPay. To make Japan like what it is in the ballpark, I really want employees to go there and be inspired. When you hear the person in front of you say, “I’ll pay with PayPay,” while waiting to check out at a convenience store, that makes you happy, doesn’t it? I think you’ll feel that kind of elation more acutely at the PayPay Dome.
Hotokezaka: You really should visit! I went for the first time this year, and I was really impressed. It’s not easy for employees to get a grasp on how PayPay has penetrated society, such as the changes in user behavior. I feel that more people are saying “I’ll use PayPay” at the cash register now, but when I visited the ballpark, probably because of the large ecosystem within, I got this experience that lead more to a conviction that PayPay users are on the rise. And not just in the dome itself, but it also seemed like the entire city of Fukuoka was supporting the PayPay Dome. It made me so happy to see kids taking pictures with the dome in the background. What’s great about the PayPay Dome is that it made me realize that PayPay is more amazing than I thought it was. The trip certainly changed the way I view my work.
What was the hardest job you’ve encountered so far?
Hotokezaka: hat would be when I simultaneously planned 30 PayPay collaboration videos with 30 YouTubers, mostly by myself, as part of the promotion for the “2nd 10 Billion Yen Campaign.” The plan was to engage YouTubers to reach out to a population that can’t be reached through TV commercials. The hardest part was that I was the only one in charge of assigning 30 YouTubers and creating 30 sets of content in about a month (laughs). I had just joined PayPay, so other than a few acquaintances in the Marketing Division to which I belonged, I had no interpersonal network in the company. It was really taxing. I also really had no idea what I was doing, but it was a great learning curve thanks to the help of many people, like having them sit-in on the filming process. After the YouTube project was over, another popular YouTuber voluntarily made a collaboration video with PayPay. I was so happy when I saw it posted on YouTube.
Matsunaga: For me, it was the very initial launching of the service. In 2018, when PayPay was established, I was on the Sales Promotion Team and in charge of in-store promotions. During the first 10 Billion Yen Giveaway Campaign, our team rushed to create sales promotion tools to promote the 20% PayPay Bonus reward, and hurriedly delivered it to merchants. At that time, PayPay was still an infant so a lot of companies joined the campaign only at the very last minute. And because it was a last-minute decision, we had to rush to send the in-store tools to the companies in time for the campaign. But there was not enough time left to place an order with the printing factory to pack and ship the materials so we had no choice but to do it all ourselves! Once that was decided, we immediately purchased a bunch of cardboard boxes, packed the promotional tools in them, loaded them onto a dolly, marched them from our office in Marunouchi over to the Tokyo Central Post Office, and repeated that as many times as was necessary. What came as a shock was that the campaign finished in a mere 10 days, and the tools quickly became unnecessary… Fond memories (laughs). But I do think the difficulties of the 10 billion yen campaign were completely different from the difficulties we have today. When PayPay was only budding, it was really tough for the team to work together in doing something we had zero experience with, and to get people to adopt our service, which was obviously unknown. Now, on the other hand, PayPay is well recognized and a lot of people use it, so there is a greater sense of responsibility when running various promotions at that scale. Having said that, I think it’s fun to be able to work on massive projects. There’s an immense feeling of accomplishment when I fulfill my duties by successfully reaching users and gaining new ones.
Hotokezaka: It’s true that when PayPay was still small, there was always an underlying anxiety because we couldn’t foresee what effect the campaigns would have or how the commercials would be received. Compared to that, with where the company is at now, each move we make entails a big responsibility, and the response we get from society is also huge. So as Matsunaga-san said, that feeling of worry has changed to a sense of responsibility.
Iwashita: Every time we hold a press conference, it feels like the most challenging press conference to date. So, although I’ve been involved in almost all announcements from the beginning, the hardest press conference I’ve experienced is the most recent one.
Iwashita-san, could you tell us more about this very laborious press conference? The last one was held in August 2021 to announce PayPay’s charging of a payment system fee. It was perhaps one of the most inquired by the media. First of all, what led to the idea of giving such a presentation?
Matsunaga: t was not a top-down decision but was in response to a call from the teams interacting with customers that a presentation would be needed. Charging a payment system fee is a big deal for privately owned stores, so we held numerous discussions with Uchiike-san, the senior manager of the Promotion Department, on how to communicate this news. As part of the project to review the charging of a payment system fee, we wanted to raise awareness about the fee among merchants, as well as direct positive messages from PayPay to business owners who required financial support because of Covid, and in that way impact society for the better. To do this, the project team concluded that President Nakayama and Vice President Baba should publicly deliver their thoughts in their own words in the form of a press conference! This was the perfect way to explain that we were going to charge a fee for our services and also communicate the benefits of the “3% to Your Account Campaign” to merchants who would be subject to the fee. Uchiike-san proposed the idea to both the president and vice president, and they decided to go with it.
What roles did you play in the presentation?
Matsunaga: Hotokezaka-san was in charge of staging the press conference, as well as coordinating with various people on the day of the presentation. Also, there was a section in the announcement where the heads of local governments appeared online. This was quite a challenge in the previous announcement as well. Hotokezaka-san was responsible for ensuring everyone was connected online and coordinated with local members all by himself. Meanwhile, Iwashita-san created the materials and slides for the presentation. To create the documents, he needed the figures and data that were going to be published, which he collected from the relevant departments and obtained permission to use them. He was also in charge of the coordination with sales teams for negotiating with local governments since the teams in each region would be the ones making the actual pitches. Internal coordination, in other words. I guess you could say that I was the director of the press conference including overseeing the materials to be used.
Hotokezaka: Matsunaga-san, since you’re reluctant to talk about how much you contributed, I will do it for you. The time allowed to prepare for a presentation is often short when the decision to host a media event is made by the higher-ups. In all honesty, we don’t want to be told, “Let’s do it in two weeks!” In order to prevent that, Matsunaga-san is always on the lookout and analyzes the appropriate timing for giving a presentation. It is thanks to her leadership that we can hold presentations at this scale, manned with so few people.
The materials at the press conference were very easy to understand, and could be seen on various media outlets afterward.
Hotokezaka: Easy to understand! That’s great news, Iwashita-san (laughs)!
Iwashita: Yeah (laughs). As I said before, preparing for this event was harder than the last one… Every time we make a PowerPoint presentation, we start with version 0.1 and it goes up to 1.0 as we progress. Having said that, there were about three times when I thought, “This much change, but only 0.1!?” After internal checks, adjustments, and catching up on the latest news, even though we had already created about 60 pages, we could only use about seven of them. So we had to create about 50 fresh, new slides. This happened three times (laughs).
Hotokezaka: We did have materials that another person created before, but for this press conference, we created the document almost from scratch. Matsunaga-san and Iwashita-san created those wonderful slides with their feisty spirit and enthusiasm. President Nakayama on occasion tells other employees to refer to these presentation materials. That’s how good they are.
Matsunaga: I’m grateful for such a compliment. At least it was worth the birth pangs… When making presentation slides, we think about how to deliver to consumers our measures that offer new discoveries and surprises. We make the expressions easier to understand and bring them closer to the consumers’ point of view. We also believe it’s important that what President Nakayama and Vice President Baba want to convey are reported accurately by the media, so we ask them for their time to confirm that we are on the same page. Both of them have a clear idea of how they wish to communicate their messages. We’re very thankful for that, since we don’t need to tell them what to say since they already know what they want to say. It takes a lot of energy to transform those words into presentation materials, but I feel that those strong messages are more likely to be published in articles and get media recognition. For Iwashita-san, it was a race against the clock. He had to grasp the essence of what management wanted to convey and turn them into a document. But thanks to his hard work, you could see the messages repeatedly cited by the media.
Iwashita: Yes, the things that we wanted covered were precisely picked up by the media. It’s great to see them cover it as we intended, which is also motivating. In this press conference, Vice President Baba explained that we would start charging the payment system fee. As we had a lot of meetings with him and shared the ideas he wanted to convey and under what situation, I think we were able to employ some staging tricks which made it easier for the media to cover us, such as a short pause when mentioning something important.
The connection with local governments was also smooth. What do you think about online press conferences compared to offline ones?
Matsunaga: So far, PayPay has held four offline press conferences with reporters on-site and two online ones with nobody. With offline events, there are a lot of reporters and TV cameras, so there’s a lot of work that needs to be done at the venue on the day of the event: direction, organizing the flow of the event, guiding people, and so on. In an online event like this press conference, there is less work to be done on the day of, but reporters write articles based on the live video and we have to conduct Q&A over Zoom. So we need to be aware of things that we wouldn’t worry about offline, such as coordinating how the event looks in the video in addition to arranging the streaming environment. We learned from our mistakes in the July 2020 press conference, in which we also had reps from local governments appear online.
Hotokezaka: I think it was good that we were able to make proper preparations based on our experience from last time. This is the second time we’ve relayed local governments in our press conference. The first one involved a lot of “firsts,” and even the connection was unstable. This time around, thanks to our accumulated knowledge and experience on holding an online event, we were able to stabilize the connectivity and everything went smooth, despite a minor issue before the event began. On the day of the presentation, PayPay sales and marketing members went directly to each local government that were connected with us to work closely with their staff. We prepared a minute-by-minute schedule for the event, and the on-site event management team in Tokyo worked closely with members of each municipality to ensure direct communication and a flexible response in the event of an accident.
Tell us briefly about your goals for the future!
Matsunaga: My team is full of highly specialized and skilled members. Each person is quite motivated, has a positive attitude, and proactively involves others, which I think is also a good thing about our team. I want us to continue to grow as a unit that promotes broadly and in depth the allure of PayPay!
Iwashita: When it comes to PayPay, I think people have a common feeling that our TV commercials and other promotions are awesome! I want to quantify that impression they have and turn it into a tool the company can use.
Hotokezaka: I want to come up with exciting and up-to-date promotions in order for more people to enjoy and safely use PayPay!
Now you’re looking for people who you can share that goal with. What kind of knowledge or personality do you want in candidates who wish to join the team?
Matsunaga: Curiosity is important. I like people who are not fixated on their individual skills but are interested in and proactive about a variety of things. This team is full of people who do not remain in their comfort zone, are aware of what’s happening around them, always look at the big picture, and take action. It’d be nice to work with people who don’t just say, “This is what I can do,” but rather who thinks with us what they can do once they join PayPay. On top of that, it is important to take charge, such as discovering issues on their own and proposing solutions. I want them to be conscious about overall optimization, not just at the individual level, and to have an attitude that allows them to constantly collaborate with other members and departments to support each other.
Iwashita: I think they will need the ability to negotiate with other employees, including those in other departments, and analytical skills. As regards to soft skills, I want to work with people who can enjoy both the good and the bad in their work. Sometimes people think that we are a great startup, but in some aspects we work like a big company. A lot of conflicting things happen, so I’d like them to see even those situations positively. I think people who can fit in our environment would say, “OK, this is now what we are aiming for, so I understand that things had to be changed. Sounds good, let’s get to work together.” Not like, “That’s not what you said before.”
Hotokezaka: I think the right person for this job is someone who always has a bird’s eye view of the entire situation, as well as the certitude in making decisions and following through. They will also have to be flexible and respond appropriately according to the situation. Plus, I would like to see them enjoy anything they do. People who’ve worked at an advertising agency, a production company, or were engaged in mass marketing could make use of their experience, but I’d rather work with people who show accountability and take ownership, engaging in their own work while grasping what’s going on by looking at the whole picture. It’s great to have a lot of experience and highly developed skills, but it might not work here if you’re too professional and stick to your own domain.
Finally, do you have any messages for those who are considering to apply?
Iwashita: I think there are many instances where you feel PayPay is a startup company, and other times a big company. I want you to have a mindset to give your best for those “phases.”
Hotokezaka: At PayPay, there are many areas where you can work proactively like in a startup, while there are also opportunities to work with affiliated companies, as in a big company. In my opinion, you can enjoy the best of both worlds here. I want you to enjoy the freedom of our work style but we are also looking for team players who take responsibility for each project, since our services are used by many people.
Matsunaga: PayPay is going to expand its services even more, so we welcome people who want to change the world with us! This is a company where you can enjoy the valuable experience of being involved in the decision-making process because it is still a young company, while at the same time having the responsibility and awareness of running a service that is used nationwide. We currently have the opportunity to speak directly with executive members twice a week. At those meetings, they listen to the opinions of people like us who are working in the field, and they make quick decisions on things we want confirmed. This fast decision-making process is one of the good things about PayPay. I also want to highlight that we have mangers who allow us to directly voice our opinions and ideas to executives! One of them is Uchiike-san, our senior manager (top center). He encourages us with kind words like, “I trust what Hotokezaka says,” or “Iwashita’s documents can be passed on to management without change. Go explain it to them directly.” That’s the reason why we enjoy our work and are in high spirits! We are really blessed with our teammates!
See our currently available open positions here
Written by: Keiko (PayPay Inside-Out Editor) / Supervisor: Az / Design: Tak
*Employees’ affiliations are those of the time of the interview.