My Internship at Wieden Kennedy

From desk to disaster zone

Long story short

I went to Japan, and worked on campaigns for Nike and Honda while interning at Wieden+Kennedy Tokyo.


The bigger picture

The desk in the picture was my desk. My arrival coincided with a confusing moment in Japanese history. The waves of a tsunami had destroyed the coastal region. There were still aftershocks almost every day. Hence the helmet you can spot on my desk. And then there was Fukushima…

The full effect of the tsunami was yet unclear, though the shutdown of nuclear power plants directly resulted in electric shortages. Every now an then, the office  turned into a sauna. At such moments I would exchange my desk for the road, and wander around the city. Trying to get a grasp on all the cultural differences, and getting to know the people around me.


I never expected that life could be lived so differently. That countries and people could differ so much. These differences made the environment and people interesting. But while to me everything was special, the people around me were living their normal lives.

Thinking about this, I got an idea. I made “The Intersection Interviews”. A series of the shortest interviews hold in the middle of Shibuya Crossing, the world’s busiest intersection. When the traffic lights turned green I had 47 seconds to interview someone in the middle of the intersection. Then the cars started moving again.

Back at Wieden my “desk neighbor” and I worked on Honda. Within Honda, the team was led by a young engineer with a surprising clear view on the change in the automotive industry. It was on us to embody these thoughts. Next to my work for Honda, I joined the Nike-team in the setup for the new Just Do It-campaign.

Although everybody tried to live on life as before, the impact of the tsunami pervaded daily city life. Honda, for instance, had rescheduled working days over the weekends to unburden the power grid. Within the agency people were worried about relatives living in the tsunami-struck area.


A small group of colleagues had initiated an operation to help the inhabitants of the ravaged city of Ishinomaki to return it to its original. I traveled to Ishinomaki to help along.

We set up camp in a destroyed clinic. In front of that building, Hifana gave a workshop to entertain the children. Inside other buildings architectures and local citizens were discussing how to restore the city.

In 1916 Ishinomaki started with the organization of Kawabiraki Festival, an annual event. The event is being organized in honor of the construction of the city’s port and sea defenses. Off course this year’s event had a deeper meaning. During a memorial ceremony lanterns, representing the human souls, were floated down from the river to the sea.

Back behind my desk in Tokyo, I realized that cities may seem invulnerable, yet how fast normal life can be torn away.