Innovation to Drive Ad Agency New Business

One of the most thought-provoking and mindset-challenging sessions at the 2011 Mirren New Business Conference was “The Innovators Panel.” Why? Because all organizations, including agencies, must innovate to remain relevant.

The chart, below, gives you a simple way to visualize the transformation that needs to take place for real innovation.

Innovator’s Quadrant

Same Services for New Clients

New Services for New Clients, with Different PeopleSame Services for Same Clients

 New Services for Existing Clients


Most businesses and agencies strive to achieve either “same services for new clients” OR “new services for existing clients.” The most difficult, risky, and potentially rewarding move, however, is to provide “new services for new clients, with different people.” However, to accomplish this transformation you will, over time, have to radically change your business model.

How to Blow Up Your Agency

Here are some of the ideas offered by the panel, which included Ed Boches from Mullen, Winston Binch from Crispin, Aaron Shapiro from HUGE, and Tony Signore from Taylor:

  • Stay in tune with start-ups and trends – Listen (see below)
  • Host weekly tech “meet-ups” in your office(s)
  • Recruit from the hacker community
  • Develop an internship program to attract the best and brightest talent

Develop a “Listening Culture”

It’s critical that your organization pay attention to what’s going on in technology and marketing. Here are 9 ways the panelists suggests you stay current:

  1. Attend tech panels
  2. Host tech meet-ups
  3. Read Wired magazine
  4. Get outside your industry
  5. Attend SXSW
  6. Attend TED
  7. Teach a class on a college campus (innovation is taking place by those in their twenties; you’ll learn from your students)
  8. Hire a strategy firm like Jump Associates to help you
  9. Read Tim Brown’s Change by Design; and, keep in eye on what his company, IDEO, is doing

As you develop new talent, new ideas, and new services, here are a couple of ways to start getting traction with your existing or new clients:

  • Bring new technology in a “lab format” to your clients every month. Teach them. Let them play with it. Experiment. See what happens.
  • When you recommend new technology or new services, be sure to explain why it’s a good idea to try it out. Most importantly, before deploying it, establish metrics – how you’re going to evaluate the experiment.

Lastly, make sure your website matches your capabilities. For example, if you’re really good at social media or developing apps, don’t tell. Show. Show your capabilities via video. Hire a young film student to tell your story for you. All you need is a 2-3 minute video.


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