DeepDive: Wielding Innovation

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Creativepool’s inaugural DEEPDIVE event saw Michael Tomes assembling together industry leaders to delve into the issues surrounding the sometimes precarious balance of creativity, technology and innovation within the world of advertising.

These bright minds grappled with one of the trickiest subjects facing the advertising industry not just in 2015, but eminently – how we innovate, create, and make the most out of technology and why it can be a complex initiative to even attempt.

Most of those present at DEEPDIVE contended that for companies of any size, the innovation model can only exist if a separate business is there to support it. Only then can an innovation arm be integrated into the core business, it was argued.

Since founding Ogilvy Labs over half a decade ago, Nicole Yershon, Director of Innovative Solutions at Ogilvy has been no stranger to innovation – nor to its incorporation into a more traditional business model. “While others innovate,” she says, “we do need people doing the day jobs to keep doing the day jobs and to enjoy doing the day job. Traditional advertising isn't going anywhere any time soon.”

At least, this is the issue that must be overcome by an existing company that seeks to begin innovating full-time, as it were. Co-founder of startup accelerator Collider, Rose Lewis, makes a comparison to companies where innovation was bred from the start: “For the likes of Google, innovation is deep seated within their DNA. Whereas a big brand with a five million pound budget is more likely to stick with what worked last year – rather than do innovative 'funny stuff'.”

“Yes, it’s a recipe,” adds Nicole, “you need a brave client, a brave agency, and a brave supplier who's never done it before but is willing to try it. To make the cake, all of these things need to line up.”


Is the hierarchy in a business the enemy of the free flow of ideas?

The creation of independent departments – should we all have ‘skunk works’, a small select group who need to work outside the usual rules to get results? Managing Director of Engage Works, David Preston, thinks so. He even has one himself. “We have to create an innovation environment within an organisation for any kind of creativity or innovation to exist. You need to make people feel that it is OK to do something that they haven't done before.”

Becky Power, Creative Director at Mindshare, enforces that Mindshare are exploring how to make the media world itself a more creative place, particularly by combining data and technology. She says “everyone needs freedom to think innovatively. Everyone should have that freedom, and it's constricting to stick to time-sheets and rate-cards.”

On the subject of innovation where it’s not necessarily expected, the conversation turned to technology shifting in a way that makes innovation necessary. “Ad blockers are an amazing thing.

They've forced advertisers to innovate”, says Laura Jordan Bambach, Creative Partner and Co-Founder of Mr. President and board of trustees member at D&AD. “Absolutely – disruption of the status quo is so, so important,” says Nicole.


So what do we do?

Laura maintained that interaction with other likeminded people was the best way to inspire oneself – and therefore, innovate.This [DEEPDIVE event] was an amazing exercise in innovation,” Laura said. “I've, just from this, already got some great thoughts, from investing in someone's creative business, to wanting to learn more about what you all do – this is what's important. Meeting the people. Not just wandering around Cannes. Talking to the people, and finding out why they're doing what they're doing.”

Creative Director at Kinetic Active, Dominic Murray, stresses the importance of down-time after exposure to trends and stimulus: “Every day we're all constantly searching for the new thing. There's a lot of noise. But you need to give yourself time to process that. I encourage quiet. Stay away from the main event sometimes. Pause, and you'll see all the connections that were invisible to you before.”

David agrees, “Absolutely – you need to give yourself space. I know someone who takes two hours, every morning, ‘just looking at stuff'. Not ‘I need to get this done. I've got a deadline to reach.’ It needs to be built into the business model, it needs to say, 'this is the investment that the company is making in innovation'.”


There was consensus that virtual reality is a pioneering technology that is giving many in the creative industry faith in innovation once again, and that bravery is at the heart of that pioneering spirit. Rose says, “When you tackle innovation, you've got to think big. Elon Musk thinks pretty damn big. He's changing the world of transportation, not just building cars. He's a software engineer that's kicking the ass of the innovation industry. Although innovation may start small, you need lots of ambition. You need to knock down a lot of walls to get there.”

“And he's trying to stop us building SkyNet by buying AI companies all over the place to shut them down, which is nice of him,” agrees Steve Jelly, Co-founder and director of TMRW and Hammerhead VR.  On the basis that the open-source nature of the platform gives creative thinkers the tools they need to innovate straight from their imaginations, Steve concluded: “VR is pure, open innovation.”

Rose finishes with a heartening statement,You have to get people at all levels to take the first step. You need to be encouraging everyone to be brave and push forward, and try new things. Just go for it.”


The Diver Introductions

Rose Lewis, Co-founder at Collider “Our mission is to help London and the UK stay ahead of the game in terms of investing in early-stage tech that's going to change the game in Marketing and Advertising.”

“We want you to invest in the future of YOUR industry.”

“We have to change what advertising means. As consumers we quite like being advertised to, but it has to be in the right way. We shouldn't throw ads at people everywhere we can just because we can.”

David Preston, MD of Engage Works. “Our mission is to connect people with technology and enable them to use it better. We're all very much passive, these days, in how we use technology. We look at things, we watch things – but we actually engage with the technology to make a difference to the status quo.”

Steve Jelly, Co founder of Hammerhead VR. “We make our own intellectual property, and have a speciality in cinematic VR. What we're seeing is film and game workflows mixing via special effects, into a combined mechanism to produce virtual reality experiences.” “I'm also co-founder of a product innovation company called TMRW, which is a specialist in trying to identify interesting new technologies.”

“VR is pure, open innovation.”

Dominic Murray, Creative Director at Kinetic Active. “We're a full service team within Kinetic. We ensure that OOH campaigns have data running through it, so that they're integrated with the rest of the media mix, using a range of new technologies. We're generally trying to raise the standard of out-of-home and make it work better overall.”

Nicole Yershon – Founder of Ogilvy Labs. “We're looking to educate staff within Ogilvy and our clients to inspire them in order to innovate toward things that have never been done before.”

Laura Jordan Bambach, Creative Partner and Co-Founder at Mr President. “We were founded by three partners with long digital backgrounds, and we were devastated by what we were seeing in the digital advertising space. There's so much opportunity out there, about five or six years ago it felt like everything was changing and opening up, so for us digital people it was a chance to change the game and do something really engaging to make people fall in love with brands again.”

“It was start our own agency or set up a yurt bed & breakfast in Italy.”

Becky Power, Creative Director at Mindshare. “We don't immediately bring our clients on a journey as we discover new things. It's really scary, and you need a brave client. A lot of it hinges on the relationships with the clients from the beginning if you're going on an adventure together.”

Innovation is entrepreneurial thinking that you can't often get at corporates. It's not easy. If you have a day job, it's f*** difficult to make s** happen. If it was easy, though, everyone would do it.” - N.Yershon



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