Where Agencies Fear to Tread

TOKYO Japan may be the most difficult, complicated operating environment in the world for an international agency. There is the obvious disadvantage: The three largest domestic shops—Dentsu, Hakuhodo and Asatsu-DK—control 65 percent of media billings. But there are other unique challenges. The business culture in Japan still largely adheres to lifetime-employment practices; the difficulty of firing staff or making layoffs, coupled with the price of real estate, makes for higher costs of doing business.

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