The swoosh. Possibly the most overused graphic element to come out of advertising in 100 years.
Clients are demanding more from their marketing agency than following the latest trends, and the answer centers around innovation. Some agencies are listening but others see innovation as a buzzword to be spouted like a talk radio host blabbing about socialism.
Dozens of attendees at the Mirren New Business Conference last week described “innovation” as the missing piece of agency magic that will make all the difference.
Here are three tweets from the Mirren conference alone:
Clients no longer interested in processes & ‘what we do;’ they are looking for innovation in the service offering”
Are you a commodity or an innovation? The agencies growing the fastest innovate.”
Companies operating in innovation mode 36% – organizational 33% – survival mode 21%.”
How about “Connecting Marketing Innovators”? Look at the top of this blog. So am I calling the kettle black? Not exactly. Telling real innovation from ad copy is the key to hiring the right marketing agency.
To start, let’s look at a few definitions of innovation:
Innovation can be defined as the act of introducing something new. Hey, marketers love repackaging! Put a bright pointy starburst around it and throw in “Improved” while you’re at it!
What’s innovation outside the marketing world? Botanists define it as a newly formed shoot, or the annually produced addition to the stems of mosses. Marketers would call this Product Line Extension.
None of these definitions get to the heart of the real innovation marketers need from their agencies. Princeton University’s definition comes closest: a creation (a new device or process) resulting from study and experimentation.
Great. But marketing generally doesn’t like experimentation.
Marketers like best practices and quantitative case studies. Adaptabilty…? Not so much. It’s paralyzing when the rules change and as a result many agencies are scrambling for air; while others are the proverbial frog on the stove.
For ad agencies to innovate they have to step outside the advertising space to look at business problems (and solutions) more broadly. This is a tactical change that many won’t do because the agency org chart makes no allowances for it.
Innovation means a shift in the agency business model–which calls into question, an agency’s very value to its clients–and that’s a pretty small ledge to be standing on alone.
To be fair, ad agencies, alone, are not to blame. How many clients have you heard say “not with my budget!”?
Innovation requires huge shifts for both marketer and agency, as a Forrester Research study recently showed:
Almost 80% of marketers don’t influence a critical customer interaction like customer service. To regain effectiveness, marketers must transition to a Customer-Centric Marketing Organization. Doing so requires: 1) redesigning P&Ls and metrics; 2) shifting culture away from marketing communications; 3) investing in a customer relationship infrastructure; and 4) rethinking agency relationships.”
Yes, clients have to support the mindset to innovate and be willing to take the risks, but real innovation has to start with ad agencies.
In the coming weeks on this blog I’ll be interviewing agencies who are rethinking the agency/client relationship; shops with the guts to use their instincts. With them, I’ll explore how innovation is more than a buzzword–it’s what clients want.