Past Winners

Rei Inamoto Special Award Winner

The question “What is direct marketing?” is moot from the perspective of Irving Wunderman Award winner Rei Inamoto. For Inamoto, chief creative officer and VP of AKQA in New York, direct marketing is marketing that’s personalized to every individual—and in the near future, that’s what all marketing will be.

Inamoto, who originally hails from Tokyo and spent his formative years in Japan and Europe, first came to the United States to complete university degrees in fine arts and computer science—just one example of his ability to channel both right- and left-brain skills. In short order he snagged his first ad job at r/ga before moving onto AKQA, first as global creative director in 2004 and currently as its creative chief.

Both modest and a man of few words, Inamoto has been referred to as the “Yoda” of advertising for his ability to boil complexities down to their core meaning—often in 140 characters or less. When asked where the moniker originated, Inamoto quips, “From some silly, useless tweets I write from time to time. I think I’m about 800 years too young to be Yoda.”

In addition to overseeing AKQA’s bustling New York office, Inamoto is responsible for the agency’s creative vision and output both in the U.S. and in Asia for blue chip clients like Google, Nike, Verizon Wireless, and Xbox.

He’s been named to the Creativity 50, he’s made the Forbes Magazine’s list of the “Top 25 Most Creative People in Advertising,” and a host of Cannes and One Show trophies adorn his shelf—but Inamoto is just getting started.

“It’s not how good you are,” he says, quoting famed Saatchi & Saatchi creative director Paul Arden. “It’s how good you want to be.”

—Allison Schiff