LA-based Oishii Creative is not an agency – but don’t call it a creative studio either. Oishii is a Creative Solutions Company.
And it’s not just marketing jargon – the team at Oishii takes its creative process very seriously, starting with a client’s need and building a project off of it and piles of research – all the while searching for an appropriate solution for that client step by step.
Oishii Creative CCO and Co-Founder Ismael Obregon says that it wasn’t his original idea to launch a creative solutions company – he was happy in his freelance career, working with agencies such as Imaginary Forces and Pittard-Sullivan, who introduced him to several of the entertainment brands with whom he still works now.
“Little by little, I started getting calls from clients directly and I needed to break out,” he said. “The market made me do it.”
Obregon says that once the idea of his own “solutions company” was planted, it pointed the way to creating what he now calls his “learning studio.”
“I wanted to open a studio [that was] different than others,” he said. “We wanted to turn it into a learning studio where people could expand their careers by learning new techniques, looking at different markets.”
He added that the process of opening up this studio taught him a lot about agency strategy, something that resonates with the team today. Another goal? “I really wanted to create an environment where I was able to do all those kinds of things without having to worry about budget.”
That one was, understandably, slightly tougher.
With learning and strategy at its core, and a motto of “Dare to Inspire,” Oishii Creative has racked up a client list with the likes of Fox, E!, Disney, HBO, EA Sports, Discovery and Tennis Channel – not to mention yours truly, PromaxBDA (Oishii created The Conference #WTFuture look for 2014).
Among Oishii’s first clients were Electronic Arts, the Phoenix Suns and the San Diego Padres, creating graphic looks for video games and sports stadiums. Broadcast clients came flooding in as well, including sports networks ESPN and NFL Network.
In a textbook “form follows function” technique, Oishii Creative worked on a package for NFL Network, who has remained a client for almost 10 years.
Each year during the NFL’s owners meetings, the league uses the opportunity of having all of its coaches in one place to conduct interviews, answering questions about their teams, their players and the season ahead. But one year, the NFL wanted to see what else was possible with this once-a-year chance, so it turned to Oishii.
The result was a series of more intimate, revealing moments with the league’s leaders, truly taking advantage of the short time the league had with these coaches to get inside their heads a bit more.
“It was very important to see past the façade of the coach and get to know them on a much deeper level in order to understand the DNA of that team,” said Obregon.
This project is one of many that prove the company’s stress on process, using a think-tank approach to define what the project needs before any work can begin.
The team’s process begins with a discovery phase, in which Oishii learns everything about the brand that it possibly can – but also about the culture that surrounds it.
“It’s about thoughtful design,” said Daniel Walkup, managing director and executive producer at Oishii Creative. “It’s important that everything we create actually connects with the brand identity and brand goals in really powerful and meaningful ways.”
So, for example, for a project for the NFL Network, Oishii learns about the network, the league, the sport, the culture of being a fan and much more.
“We definitely approach everything we do more as a think tank than as a sort of traditional agency or design company,” said Obregon. “We look and we measure the culture that that brand is going to be in. We look at the audience, the people participating with that brand.”
Then the project goes through strategic, production and maintenance phases, creating and keeping long-term relationships with many of its clients, from video games to sports to TV to financial startups.
“We think of ourselves as space invaders,” said Obregon. “We invade those other spaces and bring that knowledge back with us. We go into one universe to bring ideas into this universe – this universe of broadcast.”
Oishii brought that knowledge back to TV with its rebrand of The Hub in 2014.
Oishii completed everything from strategy to production to completion for The Hub, starting with the tagline “Making family fun.” The package (above) captures everyday family moments with fun, upbeat graphics and music in order to stand out in the crowded kids’ TV market.
Since its founding in 2004, Oishii’s motto has been “Dare to Inspire,” and that goes for the team itself as well. Several of the key Oishii leaders have backgrounds outside of entertainment marketing.
Kate Canada, Oishii’s head of strategy and co-founder, for example, has a Ph.D. in political science and taught visual literacy at USC. Her job at Oishii is to “to think about the ways that visual technology could be incorporated into education and culture,” she says,
Walkup was at USC with Canada, doing graduate work in art history, visual TV and film culture. Canada says that they are part of the team because Oishii wanted people with “complex ideas,” bringing “curiosity to Oishii’s DNA.”
Clients like this side of the company as well. Oishii has been working with Tennis Channel on creative projects and upfront presentations for years, and Tennis Channel’s Robyn Miller, SVP of marketing, says that it’s the way that Oishii seeks out every facet of a brand that makes it the ideal partner.
“The Oishii team has made the process as smooth as possible for us every year, with a top-notch design esthetic and a profound understanding of the Tennis Channel vision,” said Miller.
“We’re not really sure if we are the poster child for our companies like us should be,” said Obregon, “but we’re really liking it.”
Now, the team has taken what it has learned with entertainment brands to branch out.
“We’re now incorporating the lessons we learned through entertainment experience into holistic branding solutions in many different sectors,” said Obregon.
Currently, Oishii is refreshing another children’s network, working with new apps in the worlds of video and filmmaking, and exploring new facets of branding and creativity across platforms.