AKQA’s Managing partner, Brian Vella and Executive Innovation Director, Tim Devine are leaders of their industry and they’ll be attending Cannes in Cairns representing great thinking.
The agency has just topped Fast Companies World Changing ideas, following on from being named AFR’s most innovative company and the most awarded Australian agency at Cannes Lions last year.
Naturally, this all sounds very impressive, but considering we are an industry filled with buzz words, it’s even more impressive when we understand the method behind the madness, and the method is innovation.
These achievements speak to AKQA’s quality of work and the innovative thinking that comes from both Vella and Devine. AKQA’s Vella defines innovation as, “A very real skill in making ideas a reality and even more so a commercial or community success.
“Today, breakthroughs are achieved through a deep sense of curiosity, by diverse teams of creative thinkers working alongside technical craftspeople.”
Similarly, Tim Devine defines innovation as “A mindset. And in a partnership, it’s a shared ambition to face the hard, super meaningful, or ‘out of our skillset’ problems with a radical naivety that we can make an impact.”
Innovation is, of course, about tackling issues head-on, Vella explained: “Innovation is very much about solving problems, removing friction, often that has existed for a long time. It’s often incredibly difficult. “Every genuine innovation I’ve seen occur has had many hurdles along the way.
“Without the perspiration, these won’t be overcome. In this context persistence definitely beats resistance.” There’s also the practicality of innovation -, how do you turn an idea into something?
“Ensuring the team is aligned with the business vision and goals is important. Innovating doesn’t come without accountability, and often the pressure that comes with that is conflicting. This is all made easier by having brilliant talent doing the exploring,” Vella explained.
Still, Vella is also aware of what you need to actually pull of innovation, Vella said: “There is a very real skill in making those ideas a reality. And even more so a commercial or community success. Today, breakthroughs are achieved through a deep sense of curiosity, by diverse teams of creative thinkers working alongside technical craftspeople.”
It’s an incredible insight into how AKQA leverages innovation against their ideas, and it results in some amazing work like Action Audio.
Devine told B&T, “For some time, AKQA, in collaboration with Monash University and Blind Sports and Recreation Victoria, has been working on new sound technology — Action Audio — that translates every bit of the action on court into spatial 3D audio cues that could ultimately enable Australia’s 600,000 visually impaired people to follow all manner of sporting contests in real-time.
“We helped Tennis Australia develop and launch Action Audio at the Australian Open last year to a great response from visually impaired tennis fans and for the 2022 Australian Open, we were proud to have Action Audio used again and extended beyond the pilot, to be available for every match on centre court.
“This technology system is designed to be able to be used by most sporting codes and we hope many other leaders prove their commitment to making live sport more enjoyable and accessible with initiatives like Action Audio.”
For Devine the Action Audio was also the perfect example of where the industry is heading, “I’m not sure you’d call it a trend, but perhaps a considered and actionable approach we are seeing is that all organisations we work with have the intention to reduce their impacts on the planet and positively impact society, then go into the tennis au example.”
If that wasn’t exciting and impactful enough, AKQA has even bigger plans for the future. Devine said: “I’m particularly proud of AKQA’s work with Oxford University in the UK, Environmental Impact Labelling, which brings the impacts of consumer choices into focus.
“Our commercial partner is one of the world’s biggest food companies, and we’re close to trialling an environmental-impact framework that scores food products on carbon emissions, water use, pesticide toxicity and biodiversity impact.
“People can’t act if they don’t know the differences between one product and another. But this system calculates complex impacts and makes products comparable.
“Another project that is underway that I am really passionate about is ‘reframing the greatness of black’. Today, most AI tools used for image editing have been trained to see human faces using huge digital image libraries that contain bias. Studies have shown that it is challenging to identify or eliminate these biases. The result of their use is that real people are misrepresented or excluded.”
Similarly, Vella sees a future for AKQA through innovation, Vella explained: “Startups are disrupting every facet of commerce. Every major organisation has the same access to the same technology, and most have employed it. We’re entering an era where differentiation will keep marketers up at night.
“Every brand has its own vision and values. Companies will revert back to the heart of those, put them at the centre of every initiative, and bring them to life through genuine innovations.”
It’s evident that AKQA isn’t resting on its laurels. The team will continue to transform the industry in which they work and impact the world in which we live thanks to great minds of its leaders and the culture they encourage for their teams and partners alike.
You can catch both Vella and Devine in Cannes in Cairns at AKQA’s welcome party at Rocco – Cairns’ highest rooftop restaurant. With 270-degree, panoramic views capturing the stunning coastline of Cairns, a perfect opportunity to swim in the leading schools of marketing, innovation and business.
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