The role of Innovation in agencies

I was asked by Creative Social to talk about the role of Innovation in agencies. Creative Social is the global digital collective founded by Daniele Fiandaca the Head of Innovation of Cheil UK and Mark Chalmers former creative partner of Strawberry Frog.

Below are the answers to their questions.

How do you define innovation?

It’s the opposite too madness and doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. In business, advertising or production development innovation is the delivery of value through an idea or set of ideas that focus on improving the customer experience. It’s about developing a culture to trying things, pilot programs, test and learn always seeking incremental change that show improvements in the customer experience. 

You have had Innovation in your job title before, what does that actually mean?

When I moved from President Tribal DDB Asia Pacific to the Clemenger BBDO Group as an Executive Director responsible for the group digital direction I added the word innovation to the title. It was 2007 and many marketers had a perception of just digital advertising as banners and web sites. The guy or girl who came along to an agency meeting speaking internet stats, digital promotions, online advertising and email campaigns etc. I really wanted clients to look at digital as not a channel but as a new language to enhance their customer experience. Social media was on the increase at the time enabling immediate broadcasting of positive and negative experiences of brands which ultimately influences the buying decisions of others. I wanted clients to see digital could be used beyond a cold fixed desktop screen communication platform. I wanted them to look at the entire customer journey using digital to create action sensory communication. 

What is your background? How did you get into an innovation role?

I have been in digital media, marketing, content, advertising, publishing and technology for over twenty years. I started in the Australian film and television industry, moved to Microsoft and then onto Newscorp. I jumped into advertising with Omnicom agencies DDB, Tribal DDB, Clemenger BBDO and now with Proximity Worldwide.

During this ride I have lived and worked in varies countries including United States, China, Australia, and New Zealand. The advertising and technology industries continues to change, but my professional goal seems to stay the same. I just want to always be part of a team looking to break new ground and develop creative interactive brand experience programs for clients. I’m passionate about how brands and businesses can create participation with consumers in both the real and digital channels.

What do you think are the key characteristics to being successful in an innovation role?

You have to be an energetic, creative with analytical  skills. Be focus on teamwork, collaboration and building effective working relations with clients and all members of your team. When driving a project for a client be the one leading consumer engagement and always getting to the truth of the brand. You also need strong understanding of brand marketing functions, as well as operational dynamics that can affect a company’s ability to reach audiences and drive sales. Be driven to create meaningful tools and architecting user experiences. Once you have an idea on the table, apply and interactive mindset and a focus on making the end user feel personal with it. The idea must be helpful towards advancing the users purpose. Always ask yourself why do I care about this idea?

Give us an idea of what you do day to day to deliver innovation in your business?

Obviously plenty of reading, following innovation blogs and people with a strong design background is something I do each day. I also think it’s important to get away from technology and try to do things that don’t use it at all. Try to move away from complexity and get to enjoy very simple things. Here is where you find great ideas.

From your experiences, what can be the biggest barriers to true innovation?

Worried about failure. No one likes it but unless you make mistakes you don’t learn anything and you don’t move forward with new thinking.

What has been the most innovative thing you have seen in the advertising space over the last six months?

We all can impulse spend but what about a product to help us impulse save. Westpac launched in March this year an innovative impulse savings product to help New Zealanders save as impulsively as they spend.  Impulse Saver, a free iPhone app that enables customers to save denominations of their choice up to $50 with a simple click of a button.

What technologies/behaviours that we can see coming up in the next 12 months excites you the most?

People are in love with their personal internet enabled smart devices. Doesn’t matter if it’s a phone or tablet they are never more than a couple of meters away from them at any given time. These devices for the first time in our short technology history are actually becoming smarter every day. To make them smarter people choose and seek out an array of useful applications to download and improve their device and of course their lives.

The increase in hand held internet enabled devices has allowed us the ability to create action sensory communication. Mobile phones and smart devices today have eyes with inbuilt cameras. They have brains to know where they are located via mobile networks. They also have ears with built in microphones. They have a skin that you can touch which increasingly allows a brand a platform to augment consumer’s senses and truly change behavior.

2 thoughts on “The role of Innovation in agencies

  1. Hey Adam, nice article… I’m agree with you that the digital innovation allows you to create an instant reaction and learn from results to keep moving.
    I’m wondering if seeking new concepts we should have a look our past… I think we’re moving to fast and loosing some old user experiences, you’ll forget your watch, wallet, keys… but YOU CAN forget your phone that, you’re using as your new watch, wallet, keys etc.

  2. Hi Adam, came through your excellent SXSW journal entry. Have you seen this Creative Social Sydney video from last year?

    Coincidentally, Emad (Finch) and I started the ‘Snake the Planet’ project shortly afterwards. Goes to show that one evening with some like-minded people can spark interesting projects. And that doing and less talking is a good recipe as well.

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