OMD head of strategy Dan Bye takes a look at how, as an industry, we must operate moving forward – the difference between creating ideas and creating innovations.
Whether you work within the creative or media side of our industry we are at an interesting crossroads, where the competition for consumers’ attention has never been greater.
In response to these challenges agencies of all disciplines are increasingly needing to look for more creative ways to connect with these audiences, some of which have seen agencies working on projects that are outside of what was typically considered the domain of the advertising industry.
In recognition of this shift at Cannes this year we saw the inaugural Innovations Lion’s being awarded (their definition of innovation being data x technology x ideas), providing the opportunity for work that might not have fit neatly into other judging categories the opportunity to be recognised and celebrated by our industry, not that by any means Cannes or any awards show should ever be the be-all and end-all of course.
This type of innovation is not new and some brands/agencies have been playing in this space for some time, a notable example of which would be R/GA & Nike+ which was launched as far back as 2006.
Post Cannes I have read a fair amount of debate and conjecture about the merits of some of the projects that were awarded by the innovations jury (for the sake of fair disclosure, I was involved early-on in the Optus Clever Buoy project in a previous role, and so have a natural bias towards it); a lot of this time and effort being spent debating the validity of the projects recognised by the jury and also what impact they may/or may not have had on the businesses of the clients that funded them – the last point is true of many creative/media awards, and is after all why we have effectiveness categories.
Regardless of your feelings to the particular projects in question, it is my belief that the reality here is a difference in how, as an industry, we must operate moving forward, the difference between creating ideas to creating innovations.
The advertising industry has always been an industry of ideas. However, we have been required to be an industry of the definitive, with the expectations being that the solution we come-up with be achievable within certain parameters – be that within a time frame, budget and/or to achieve specific marketing/business objectives.
Unfortunately, the simplicity of what once was is no longer the case, and brands now more than ever, are having to work much harder to create relevance and fulfil a meaningful role in the lives of the audience they are trying to connect with; to ensure that their brand/product/service is top-of-mind when the consumer comes to part with a dollar or two (whether today, tomorrow or at some undefined point in the future).
In order to foster this meaningful connection between brand and audience some agencies are choosing to go down a less trodden path, one which is less definitive at the outset and arguably involves more risk for both client and agency. A path that if successful can deliver far more return for longer, than a traditional advertising campaign could.
As an industry we are supposed to be a bunch of dreamers – looking to the future and coming up with new ideas – and at the moment entrepreneurs and tech companies are kicking our arses, this is why we need to celebrate the innovators.
Innovation isn’t a type of brief, or a check-box, and it is not something that fits neatly into a traditional agency model nor something that can be confined to a 30 second ad, a MREC or an out-of-home special build.
Innovation is a commitment and a process – we still need an insight, a human need or a problem to solve, but we then need a multi-disciplinary team of thinkers that the traditional agency model isn’t designed to accommodate – this is when the innovation starts – the process that realises a brand new way of solving that problem and makes it a reality, and doing things for the first time will always be fraught with risks.
It is a commitment and a labour of love that requires patience, open minds and a group of people that are prepared to venture into the unknown and have the tenacity to overcome the obstacles and probably some failures along the way, at times maybe even questioning if what they have dreamt up is possible to achieve.
That is what leads us to the step changes and leaps forward that create some new-news and point of difference and cut through for the brave brand involved.
So whilst at times these projects can feel farfetched, that is kind of the point.
We need to celebrate the bravery and tenacity of both the agencies and the clients that have the balls to embrace innovation and make these new ideas become a reality, and if some fail along the way then we should take a leaf out of the book of the technology industry and make sure we have learned something new.
At least we gave it a go.