Tag Archives: Innovation

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Dragon Is In Orbit

Dragon Is In Orbit

SPACEX Dragon in orbit with solar arrays displayed.

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iMedia Brand Summit 2010 Closing Keynote Talk.

The brand marketers who attended iMedia  2010 were kind enough to vote this the best presentation of the summit. Where I ran videos in the actual presentation you will find pages with the links to the relevant videos on YouTube and, if Steve J hasn’t changed his mind and taken down the iPhone OS 4 / iAd streaming presentation, at Apple.

My thanks once again to:

Ken Mandel of Yahoo and Agatha Yap of McDonalds who recommended me to Ad Tech / iMedia ; Joe at ComScore who provided data; Tom and Jerry (seriously)of MobileNow, the iPhone, iPad & Android app developers in Shanghai for data, insights and magic; Benjamin and Christoph of Wildfire Asia WOM in Singapore and Shanghai for insights, POV and reference leads; Eddie Chau of Brandtology for the topical case study, other great charts and your vision; Josh Sklar of Heresy in Austin, Texas for your insights, the reference links and 15 years of partnership in digital.

It’s all about the Social Graph in action and you guys helped prove it through your excellent input. Again, Thank you all.

There’s a lot happening out there!

View more presentations from Innovize.

Ad Industry Leaders Storm the Exits and Start Innovative Marketing Communications Companies.

Thermal Image LED lamp. ©NatGeo/Tyrone Taylor/WWF

Escape To Entrepreneurship

Increasing numbers of senior people are quitting their ad industry jobs. Some out of sheer frustration or exhaustion, but others are starting innovative new marketing communications firms. This is a critical time for an industry in desperate need of reinvention. By joining & supporting these start-ups we can help build a better industry of Marketing Communications Professional Services.

Nine months ago in “Leadership, Management & The Rising Tide”  I wrote of the 150% jump in already employed people looking for jobs. There were 3 main reasons for the surge:

1. my company is going nowhere and our management is clueless at the helm;

2. our bosses keep beating us up because their bosses keep beating them up;

3. my company retrenched so many colleagues I can’t stand working here.

Most wanted a new job because their managers were too useless, too awful, or had damaged companies too badly for quality people to want to work near them any longer. What had been a growing problem before was magnified by the pressures of the Great Recession. Poor managers had been shown up and quality people wanted out!

Now that the economies of many countries are improving and marketers are increasing their communications budgets, people are on the move as predicted. However, there is now a further and more vital driver of their movement – the Escape To Entrepreneurship.

Talented Leaders Are Quitting, but not Leaving.

In June 2009, Omnicom announced Michael Birkin’s resignation as Vice-Chairman of Omnicom Group Inc and CEO of Omnicom Asia-Pacific. Birkin is no holding company leech. He was global CEO of Interbrand for 8 years, during which he invented their Brand Valuation model. He sold Interbrand to Omnicom, who were so impressed they made him head of Omnicom’s Diversified Agency Services division – half the revenues of the entire holding company, then later, CEO of Omnicom Asia-Pacific.

Last month Birkin launched The Red Peak Group. Brand Strategy & Design, Experiential, CRM, Sponsorship… Their clients? Anheuser-Busch, Intel, McDonald’s, Sony Ericsson… Birkin isn’t just the CEO. He’s hands-on as their Chief Strategist and leader of the Intel relationship. How many other CEOs, Presidents and similarly rewarded heavies can you say that about? Most clock few if any billable hours against paying clients. Ask any agency group CFO.

Last week the two top leaders of JWT North America quit to start their own company. Colleagues in JWT and seniors in WPP expressed surprise; even shock. There was probably envy and shame too.

Recently, self-styled “working class heroes” Iris Nation relocated their founder CEO and several top leaders to Asia. They have made it clear they’re not your average UK- or US-centric network. They know where their future revenues, and retirement funds, will come from and have the independence and wisdom to act on it.

Ad agency leaders feel like they’ve been tossed in a river with their arms and legs bound. They get no respite from holding company strictures, so the best they can hope to achieve is to keep their heads above water and be carried down-stream. It’s soul-destroying and prevents them delivering the service improvements marketers need. Rumours are now circulating of breakaway talks among top mar-comms industry leaders, and those talks are including marketers who are equally frustrated with the situation.

Entrepreneurship To The Rescue

There has always been a healthy trend of entrepreneurship in the marketing communications industry. A steady flow of visionaries, and of the frustrated, leaving to do their own thing. It used to keep the industry fresh, creative and adapted to the changing world, but in recent years too much of that innovative energy has been siphoned off into holding company acquisitions and management service fees.

Many of the best brains in the business work in the holding companies which acquired their businesses. From there they can do little, despite all their talent and skill, to reinvent the industry that made them rich and famous. These are the people who have done it before, know how to succeed, have the money to break away again and are a powerful force for good in starting or helping new ventures in marketing communications.

Rumours are that more of these, like Birkin, are starting to move en masse. If so, that’s great news. It couldn’t come at a better time to save the marketing communications industry.

Critically, marketing communications entrepreneurs must address the 7 pressing issues of:

1. Delivering consulting grade recommendations with fully integrated planning, technology, content management and business building ideas;

2. Getting paid fairly for all that despite the rise of qualitatively illiterate Procurement departments;

3. Tracking and proving the value they add, instead of just winging it old-school style, which will help keep Procurement at bay;

4. Recruiting, training and retaining top quality people including industry outsiders with the new skills needed – content strategy, mobile technology, data analytics and visualization & neuroscientific research included;

5. Rewarding all their people honestly and properly for their efforts;

6. Staffing to the right levels instead of driving their people to exhaustion, stress, despair and depression, none of which produces great thinking, unique ideas or added value and;

7. Resisting the temptation to sell to one of the holding companies as the exit strategy. A good-sized block of stock in a thriving independent will make a much better retirement annuity.

It takes the right people in the right environment with time to think and work things through to deliver a professional service. Pressure, fear and panic give bad advice.

Treat them any other way and quality, professional people simply storm the exits.

“You have 5 mins To Fix The Ad Agency Business Starting… NOW!”

Maybe they didn't notice 'cos it didn't tick...

Last week while I was posting  that ad agencies should innovate – perhaps even embrace crowdsourcing – something strange was happening at the Hilton Union Square, San Francisco. I wish I’d been there. Here’s what I’ve found out.

The AAAA (American Association Of Advertising Agencies) combined for the very first time their Leadership Conference (ad agency types) and their Media Conference (yep, media agency types) into one conference: “Transformations 2010”. Flailing to be seen as up to date, they called this “the mash-up (sic) of the association’s Media and Leadership Conferences”.

Are you struck by some puzzling questions? I was.

Why wasn’t this always one event? Isn’t there just one purpose for all those people – to help build their clients’ business through marketing communications? Isn’t this symptomatic of why marketing communications, and the ad agency business in particular, are in turmoil?

To the A’s credit, they did invite some “digital” speakers. Carol Bartz and Arianna Huffington. Google, the giant of online advertising wasn’t there. Nor was Facebook, the next online ad giant. The mightiest of the search and social media players. Either of them is more important to the ad business now and for the future than Yahoo and Huffington Post combined. Maybe they couldn’t make it.

The 4As also didn’t invite BootB or IdeaBounty which I linked to in last week’s post. No surprise.

“The goal of the conference is gathering the entire media and marketing ecosystem into one room and onto the same page,” said 4A’s President and CEO Nancy Hill. “In a world where everything is digital and global, the conversations about the transformation of the business needs (sic) to be held together, so that we can cooperatively find solutions to the challenges ahead.”

For those of you without a Babel Fish in your ear that’s Adfolkian for “The ad agency business is screwed. Fine, we admit we don’t “get it” and that we really are all in the same business. Now, will you please explain where the life rafts are”.

The 4As also boasted of “18 women speakers, roughly one out of three, [which] marks the highest percentage and number of women in the history of 4A’s events”. Wow! In an industry where the proportion of women is closer to double that and those 18 speakers included outsiders Ms. Bartz and Ms. Huffington.

It sounds like the real highlights of the conference were the “seven guest, five-minute sessions from the winners of the 4A’s Transformers Contest, which asked users to submit their own ideas and concepts for revolutionizing the advertising industry”. That’s right: “You have 5 minutes to explain how to fix the massively screwed up Ad Industry. Starting…. NOW!”

Here’s the best I’ve seen or heard. Sean Boyle, Global Planning Director of JWT taking 2 deserved minutes longer than the 5 allowed for his witty, wise presentation: “The Stop/Start 10 Commandments”. It’s a hand-held wobbly vid, but worth it.

There’s a .pdf of Sean’s presentation here.

The 4As also included in the seven winners, to their credit, the uber-cranky George Parker of AdScam – think gonzo without Hunter T -who described last year’s 4As Leadership Conference as a “Giant Wank Fest!” Google him. That’s a  comment well to the “G” end of the Parker ranting-scale.

Here’s my own short rant:

I’ve built and run some ad agencies and I’ve co-founded and run a digital heavy hitter. I’ve run some media agencies, a network of CRM companies and two networks of “activation” companies. My conclusion from those nearly 360 degrees of experience is the only thing more mindless and unprofessional than scam ads is the silo-ed, paranoid, “We’re better than you are. Nyah nyah nyah nyaaah nyah” way those 5 disciplines have failed to pull together to build their clients’ business. Now, get on with it!

There is light, though.

Here’s how the 4As recognizes the mess when promoting their “highly successful and in-demand 4A’s workshop “Agency 2.5: How Agencies Are Transforming for the Future” [which] looks at the traditional agency model and discusses what to relinquish, what to rework, and what to reinvent”.

“It’s time for marketing communications firms to address the realities facing our industry:

  • There’s less demand for what agencies traditionally have to sell.

  • Clients need more help in online marketing, particularly social media, but agencies aren’t set up to provide it.

  • Agencies are spending their energies above-the-line while clients are spending their budgets below-the-line.
  • Agencies are stuck in a structure that churns out “advertising” ideas instead of “business-building” ideas.
  • Clients are hammering agencies on price and speed for work they perceive as a commodity.

  • There’s a strong movement toward accountability that agencies aren’t prepared to address”.

Now if only there was hint of this recognition, and of this commitment to doing something about it, among the ad industry in Asia.

The Way To Succeed Is To Double Your Error Rate.

Thomas J Watson Sr. IBM archive.

Thomas J Watson Sr. IBM archive.

Thomas J. Watson snr. known as “The World’s Greatest Salesman” was also one of the richest men in the United States at the time.  Having built the enormously successful IBM, he was asked for advice on how to succeed. This was his reply:

“Would you like me to give you a formula for success? It’s quite simple, really. Double your rate of failure. You are thinking of failure as the enemy of success. But it isn’t at all. You can be discouraged by failure – or you can learn from it. So go ahead and make mistakes. Make all you can. Because, remember, that’s where you will find success.”

This is sometimes misquoted in the abbreviated form I used for the headline of this posting. The sentiment and the implications, remain the same.

One cannot innovate without trying what has not been done before. That means you are bound to make mistakes. The point Watson made, speaking in fact about sales, holds well for accumulating learning on the path of innovation, or any exploration of new things.

Lots of pop psychobabble has been published about the notion that the only failure is to give up, that one should not expect to get through life without getting knocked down but should rather make sure one keeps getting up, and so forth. I thought I’d take the practical route show you two examples of failures which went on to be great successes.

Sildenafil Citrate

Sildenafil Citrate

Sildenafil Citrate.

The molecule on the right was put together as a treatment for angina, a very painful condition which is sometimes mistaken for a heart attack and can sometimes be a precourser to one.

The users of these drugs are older and generally have circulatory problems.

In the testing phase for the drug the results showed that it hardly beat a placebo – a sugar pill – in effectiveness. The drug company asked the few thousand trialists who had been provided with the drug to return all the remaining tablets in their possession. That was when the drug company ran into an interesting problem. A very large proportion of the trialists wanted to hang onto the pills and their reaction was rather stronger than anticipated.

viagraCareful exploration revealed that while the drug did not have a viable effect in preventing or treating angina, it did have one very unusual and valuable side effect, which was why so many trialists wanted to hang onto their remaining supply.

Sildenafil Citrate, or Viagra as the world knows it now, was a splendid failure that went on to become a raging success.

PTFE

Polytetrafluoroethylene

PTFE as it is more commonly known was discovered by a researcher named Albert Plunkett of the Kinetic Chemical company who was experimenting with some alternative CFC refrigerants. These are the gases which, when compressed pumped through a refrigerator or air-conditioner, produce the coldness we so value.

In one experiment, perfluorethylene was being tried. However, when Plunkett tried to use gas from the canister of perfluorethylene he found that none came out. Exploring further he found that the perfluorethylene had polymerised through the action of the iron in the cannister acting as a catalyst. It had become a solid described as polytetrafluoroethylene. That’s it above and to the right.

The resulting colourless powder had some very unusual properties and one in particular which impressed him and all of us since. It is almost impossible to make anything stick to it, or vice versa.

Plunkett and Kinetic patented it and resitered a trademark. The Kinetic company was acquired by DuPont and the trademark is still used today. Teflon.

TEFLONOf course there are have been thousands of failures which have not turned out to be successes in any form and that is all part of the process. However they have probably all served to educate those who worked on them and ultimately led to more successful results.

Keep making mistakes if it means you are trying new things on the path to innovation.

Creative Services & The Vicious Cycle of Procurement

ouroboros_by_Saki_BlackWing

ouroboros by Saki BlackWing

Creative services aren’t generic.

They are unique. They have to be. Without uniqueness they can’t add value. That goes for content like advertising, design, games, on-line worlds and music. It goes for idea based consulting like branding, communications and media strategy and the plans to implement them.

Their uniqueness depends on the backgrounds, experience, inspiration and leadership of the people creating them. They are creations of unique individuals for unique circumstances.

Experience and the ability to produce high quality, unique creative ideas set salaries for those who create them. The less one is prepared to pay, the lower the quality one should expect.

The increasing role of procurement in buying creative and strategy services from advertising, media planning and branding industries may indeed save marketers some money, but can have undesirable consequences.

Not least the loss of the very thing that makes creative services valuable – their unique ability to add value to the procurer’s business.

The result? As procurement drives down the cost of buying those services it will drive down their value. With that will come dissatisfaction with those services, canceling of contracts and the appointment of the next low cost bidder. The vicious cycle will continue and the problem will worsen.

The solution? Innovations in procurement to correctly value creative services. This is easier in the on-line space where accountability is high. Off-line it may take longer.

At the same time the providers of creative services must improve leadership, innovation and accountability to improve their ability to deliver and value what they do.

Finally, both sides must realize they share  the common goal of adding higher value to brands and their owners through superior creative ideas and innovation.

5 Lessons Nelson Mandela Teaches Us About Leadership & Innovation

credit: South Africa. The Good News. www.sagoodnews.co.za

credit: South Africa The Good News. http://www.sagoodnews.co.za

Leadership & Innovation are really inseparable; parts of each other.

Leader/Innovators change their organizations, their countries and often the world. South Africa’s first democratically elected President faced a crisis of vast hostility and intense fear between the newly empowered black majority and the previously dominant whites. The Truth & Reconciliation Commission was an innovation which changed the course of history.

Here are five quotes from Nelson Mandela which have much to offer leaders & innovators everywhere.

1. “It always seems impossible until it’s done.”

Innovation is about making what does not exist today, exist tomorrow. No matter how hard it seems, no matter how impossible everyone says it is.

2. “I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

This is a reality every leader faces, especially in a recession or a crisis. It is what the entrepreneur deals with in launching a business using all the money he can scrape together. It’s what the innovator embraces in leading an organization into a new area for success, away from the safety of the known.

3. “There is no passion to be found in playing small – in settling for a life that is less than the one you are capable of living.”

A real leader helps us and the company we all work in, to grow as significant and as talented as we can be. How much more rewarding it is for leaders to help build people and their confidence in themselves, to live a life as large as they are capable of. The Innovator does not “settle” for what is, but strives for what can be and takes us there.

4. “It is better to lead from behind and to put others in front, especially when you celebrate victory when nice things occur. You take the front line when there is danger. Then people will appreciate your leadership.”

This goes to a key point in my posting yesterday. True leaders will grab the criticism and pass on the praise. Weak managers do the opposite. Innovation involves wrong turns, failures, mis-steps. All must be celebrated and learned from as much as the success. If there are no mistakes are being made it often means that nobody is trying anything new.

5. I have walked that long road to freedom. I have tried not to falter; I have made missteps along the way. But I have discovered the secret that after climbing a great hill, one only finds there are many more hills to climb.

Probably the most vital insight into leadership and innovation is this: one makes mistakes, one recovers; challenges keep coming, one soldiers on. One has to keep going until you achieve the next goal and then the next and so on. Tenacity, stamina, even stubbornness are the order of the day.

This last quote is a bonus. I’ve included it because we’d all do well to remember this; believe this; BE this.

“A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.”