McCann Japan planning director Hiro Fujita on living and working with motor neurone disease

Hiro FujitaHiro Fujita is a planning director at advertising agency McCann in Japan. He is also a sufferer of Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a terminal disease which paralyzes everything except the senses and the mind. He is left with control of the movement of his face and his left index finger.

The planner tells Mumbrella Asia’s editor Robin Hicks about his working life in advertising, his hopes for the future, and whether adland is doing enough to provide opportunities for people with disabilities.

In practical terms, how are you able to do your job?

I use an eye-tracking system to respond to emails and to make powerpoint decks from home. When I’m at work, in meetings it’s a combination of using eye-tracking technology and co-workers lip reading.

How do you communicate with your colleagues and clients?

Same as above.

Which clients do you work on at McCann, and which ideas/campaigns have you come up with that you’re most proud of?

I was running all of Coca-Cola’s brands for McCann Worldgroup. I also handled Mondelez’s Stride gum brand and Zippo for McCann Erickson, and Gap and Banana Republic for MRM [McCann’s digital arm].

Currently I’m working on Coca-Cola and Walt Disney, which is always fun and challenging. I will always be proud of working with the brightest in the business.

One client I will always hold close to my heart is Zippo. It was my first pitch. I teamed up with two co-workers, who I now see as mentors and friends. One of them was an account manager, Sean Harven. The other was a creative, Glenn Bartlett. The other was me.

Soon after we won the pitch, Glenn left the company and Sean passed away. I proceeded the assignment with friends outside the company and developed a complete influencer marketing PR program, which allowed the assignment to expand to Weber Shandwick Japan [McCann’s sister PR agency] and Europe.

I only hope I made my two buddies proud.

As a planner in advertising, how has your illness changed your view of the world, if at all?

It has given me more perspective on “the essence” of things in life.
Probably because that is what I have been forced to re-evaluate the most in life after I was diagnosed [Fujita was diagnosed with ALS four years ago, at the age of 31].

Do you feel that ad agencies in Japan are doing enough to support employees with disabilities? If not, what could they do more of?

Not even close to enough. In Japan, there is probably a cultural issue at play which explains why not. Although I would say that things are  improving.

In the West, even if there are no disabled people in the work place, there is usually the means to make things easier if there were. Wide doors, ramps and slopes to make way for wheelchairs, and so on.

Not at all so in Tokyo… yet.

Hopefully this will all change with the 2020 Olympics.

What are your career aspirations with McCann?

Stay alive, get cured and repay the love…

Hiro Fujita is author of the book 99% THANK YOU. Things Even ALS Can’t Take Away, which is available to buy on Amazon.comiTunes and Kobo. He also writes his own blog and is founder of the charity END ALS Association


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