Agency Innovation Requires Ditching the Big Idea
The recent confession of a top digital executive at a big agency is contrary to our experience at R/GA. Maybe it’s a self-selecting universe — you hire R/GA if you want to innovate — but nearly all of our clients are making major investments in digital innovation. Some are stepping pretty far outside their DNA.
We have numerous examples where we brought the “innovation idea” to the client, they bought it, funded it and we launched it. Case in point: O2 Priority Moments (UK), as well as much of the work we are doing for McCormick, L’Oreal and others. Many of the pitches we are seeing are for massive product innovation briefs coupled with digital services. I think a growing number of companies are agreeing with our point that they cannot grow in a commoditized marketplace without innovating their core business model.
The problem is with the approach of many traditional agencies. A lot of people in the agency business are obsessed with this notion of the singular “big idea,” which was historically a TV commercial with a tagline. It was the singular work product of an agency. The client had little to do with this work apart from writing the brief.
When we think about innovation, it’s rarely about a big idea. It’s about making something great, often things that already exist. There were many MP3 players before the iPod came along. Apple’s brilliance was in making the very best one and connecting it to a larger ecosystem of services and media (called iTunes), which proved to be the winning formula. Ditto for iPhone and iPad.
Similarly, there were many running tracking devices before Nike+. Some relied on GPS and were costly. Others were simple pedometers that didn’t track much. The original Nike+ was a relatively inexpensive (compared to GPS devices at the time) way to track a run and connect it to a community and tools. What R/GA did was help make it great. Without a team on both the client side and agency side obsessing over the product details, it could have easily been a marketplace failure – regardless of where the idea originated.
The same is true of Fuelband. The idea of a device that you wear all day long that tracks your activity goes back to pedometers. There were competitive products in the marketplace, like FitBit. Nike saw an opportunity to take this existing technology and turn it into a completely different experience. R/GA played a major role in making the product great. A similar product that launched around the same time, the original Jawbone Up, was a disaster and had to be pulled from the market shortly after release because it simply didn’t work. This is further that the execution of an idea is the demonstration of innovation.
But if you obsess about big ideas all day long and who gets credit, you’ve completely missed the point.
Barry Wacksman is the chief growth officer at R/GA. Follow him on Twitter @wacksman.
Image via Shutterstock
Member Exclusive‘Can’t really be ignored’: Marketers and media buyers are finally taking the on-going TikTok saga seriously
Marketers and media buyers have said that as long as people are still on TikTok they’ll want to be there, especially as they try to diversify from Facebook and Google.
‘Clever about how we rest’: As uncertainties drag into fall, agencies are facing a burnt out and fearful workforce
Agency employees and executives say that a feeling of fatigue due to the on-going uncertainty and the need to be always on has set in.
‘A credible voice’: Why Honda is doubling down on esports
Honda has struck deals with Riot Games, pro esports team Team Liquid and Twitch as it looks to maintain its appeal among first-time car buyers.
SponsoredB2B events were broken before the pandemic, their online reinvention is creating positive change
Kim Darling, executive producer, Inbound Farewell lanyards, business cards and branded pens — it’ll be some time before people get their hands on these souvenirs of in-person events again. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to transform the way people work, buy, sell, socialize and entertain themselves, the global events industry is facing its biggest-ever challenge. […]
Member Exclusive‘2020 has been the year of contingency plans’: The new norms of marketing
Six months into a paradigm shift in marketing due to on-going crises, marketing leaders say that many of the coping changes put in place are here to stay.
Snap is exploring bringing ads to Minis
Snap launched Minis, lightweight third-party applications that sit within the Snapchat app, in July. Now it's looking to monetize them.