Innovation for the Masses

4 ideas how to implement innovation in organization, following the Lions Innovation Festival in Cannes

Innovation is the right word to say in 2015. If ‘digital’ was the buzzword in recent years, today the words everyone knows by heart are Big Data, Internet of Things, start-ups, technology, and of course, innovation.

It’s not surprising that the festival celebrating the creativity in Cannes decided to do another festival specifically on innovation; Lions Innovation, and they brought innovation into the mainstream.

Big brands such as food giants Unilever, Nestle, and Mondelez, are already starting to adopt innovative methods. Small and medium advertising agencies like RG \ A, which have been leading the technology trend for some time, are paving the way for big agencies, which are already slowly making their first steps in the world of technology and innovation. Consumers are beginning to already adopting these great technologies, and can already buy IoT chips in stores around Cannes, in case they lose their keys.​

Just like the Cannes Lions festival, Lions Innovation includes a lot of inspiring talks. Start-ups, venture capitalists, entrepreneurs with tech-creative solutions starred on the stage and in the judging panel, right next to creatives and senior market managers who have already “cracked the formula”.​

For first time, the festival attracted hundreds of people who came only for the two days for the benefit of innovation, and of course thousands from the bigger festival - Cannes Lions, also passed. After the festival, when I spoke with Rob Demitz, business development director of the Cannes Festival, he noted that, ‘We developed Lions Innovation to reflect how the industry has evolved. Data and technology play a significant role in creative and advertising, and the new festival brought the two sides of the equation together.’ As for next year, Demitz says, ‘The main focus is to talk with people who came to the festival, to get feedback from them and to learn how to make the Innovation Festival in 2016 even better.’

As marketers and advertisers, we know that technology is the new color in our palette for creating campaigns and breakthroughs, but often it is difficult to decide what comes first. The technology and then the right creative wrapping, or a creative idea with the right technological means.

On one hand, there is no doubt that in order to win sympathy from the audience and among other things, a lion, a great idea and an amazing execution is needed. In other words, spot-on creative. On the other hand, the big winner at the Cannes Festival Grand Prix, in the innovation category, was the What3Words start-up, that made all their technology, strategy and creative themselves.

The solution that What3Words presented is in for creating address in the form of 3 words, by coordinates, in places where there are no addresses, for example in India, Africa, and more. They have already managed to reach tens of thousands of consumers and tell an amazing story without the backing of a brand or an advertising agency.

By the way, any delivery brand such as Amazon, for example, can and should understand the potential of cooperation with such a start-up, to give value to consumers and also to reach new customers. On the other side, one of the amazing campaigns that was done and of course won, with a big idea, exciting creative and correct use of technology, was for Huggies campaign that printed 3D photographs of ultrasounds for blind mothers using 3D technology.

So, a good story is always necessary, but the idea is like the case of the chicken and the egg, it can seemingly really come from the creative or the technology. And there’s no doubt that the two need to work more closely.

How to think differently? By discovering new ventures? Making efforts to adopt new technology to create innovative and more daring campaigns? There is no one right answer, but a few things stood out from the structure of the festival and what the speakers said. Then after two days at the festival and after a few meetings with industry officials and event organizers, when it comes to technology, there are 4 useful tools worth knowing and embracing.

1.  Listen to Kids

Unlike us, Generation X and Generation Z, who are familiar with technology but it doesn’t always come naturally, Generation Y or the Millennials were born into technology. We have all seen toddlers who play with smartphones, but today children aged 14 and 16 are already developing applications and initiating new startups. If they want to learn something new they go to the Internet. Their creativity is not limited and they really can do anything.

One of the most interesting projects presented on stage of the Innovation Festival was Kano, a “Lego” PC that anyone can build from scratch. Every boy or girl (and it’s recommended for adults as well) can build and assemble their own computer, and start to program objects in MindCraft, creating games, and more. A girl from Africa said about "Kano", that it turned them into Super Children. They really felt that they had super powers. And they really can do anything today with the tools they have at their disposal. ​

How to implement: just start talking with children or those around us about the challenges, try to sit with them and think of solutions and see how they can help and how it's possible to nurture them. Their thinking is less limited, more creative, and they are very eager to implement. One of the most amazing things I’ve experienced, beyond Cannes Festival of course, is the youth hackathon which had over 80 achievable, creative and technological ideas. These days, as part of TechDate, we ‘adopt’ young entrepreneurs and include them in brainstorming, thinking and development, as part of a collaboration, and we also serve as mentors for them and give them tools in marketing and advertising.

2. Get Dirty

It’s true that not all of us were born engineers and it’s very likely that we won’t all become programmers by tomorrow morning. In each presentation with an idea that includes technology, a type of fear reigns in the room - is the solution applicable without the high costs and it is often difficult to persuade customers to produce such campaigns. The beautiful thing in technology is that the more it develops the more it becomes simpler and everyone can implement and present how it works to clients without knowing programming.

The Makers community is already understand these things. They are being tested on a regular basis on how we can create something new that does not exist and break things down into simple elements. A company called SuperGroup, which helps advertising agencies implement creative technologies, developed the Octopi - physical is the new digital, a product based on sensors and logic.

Like in the example that was presented at the festival, audience members were asked to drink a glass of Rose (they are at Cannes, after all), and as soon as they moved the glass (Input - the sensor that feels movement), each movement of the glass will make a sound and produce a melody (Output).

Of course there were more complex technologies like robots and artificial intelligence that were presented at the festival. Everything exists and everything is already here, but it can and should begin with small steps.

How to implement: solutions for ‘makers’ are available online at minor costs, and there is no programming knowledge required, just common sense. To start getting dirty it’s worth ordering for the office the Octoupi or Makey-Makey (connecting physical products online and creating new experiences), Google Cardboard to experience 3D experiences, NFC stickers, and even to borrow a 3D printer to try and create new products. All of these products are available and cheap, and are very helpful to think differently and stretch the limits of creativity.

3. Work Different

Albert Einstein already said that “insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result.” There is no doubt that in the time we’re in, our reality is changing almost every day thanks to technology (for example, during Cannes Lions, there was a mass protest against the entry of Uber), and we need to behave differently to create other things.

Even Lions Innovation tried to do things a little differently. Although, relative to the innovative event, there were no attempts to create other experiences, but there were some talks, who tried to be more interactive. Ogilvy took advantage of the time given to them and asked the crowd that was with them to be dynamic and to help them solve some of the briefs about innovation at Cannes. Within half an hour, there were dozens of creative solutions were gathered, which Ogilvy plan to promote and likely their implementation will be seen in 2016. Another session asked the question, ‘who wins, coders or creatives?’ The crowd heard some short lectures from people on both ends and had to vote. The coder won.

These are just examples of how ‘accepted’ things can be easily changed and how the audience responds to them positively. Unilever noted in their talk, how they use start-ups and consult with them on solve briefs. Bunin Boga, vice president of media and customer interaction from Mondelez, exchanged marketing managers with start-ups guys for a week, Google with their famous method of 20% dedicated to promoting new ideas, presented how Google Culture was born following the idea of one employee, and more.​

Traditional advertising agencies are also beginning to think about how they can change the accepted working methods and adapt them to the current era. Sean McDonald, director of global digital at McCann, told me how he thinks we should start working: “Global innovation will be essential in our mission to create meaningful, lateral, and creative experiences for our consumers. We owe it to our customers, to push ideas that change the rules of the game and that seem too difficult to implement. We must be hackers and visionaries to create business and brand value. The new ways of working require deep insight and desire to create things, test them quickly, and to use the information obtained for the purpose of optimization.”

How to implement: Easily. Try to get people who usually do not participate in the brainstorming sessions. The idea can come from anyone. Give space and even create a permanent platform for people from within the organization to offer ideas and help to implement them. Try to implement a culture of ‘hackathons’ within the organization, a diverse crowd of people that convenes for a specified period with a clear mission - to bring up ideas and try to get as many details of implementation as possible. It’s not as complicated as it sounds, and the results will be surprising.  

4. Start-it-UP

One of the stages of the festival was dedicated to the start-ups marathon sponsored by Unilever. Unilever 50 Foundry brought to the festival 50 startups from the world of marketing and advertising to present their solutions. In his lecture, Luis di Como, vice president of media at Unilever, spoke about why Unilever as a breakthrough company, must remain vigilant and use startups to crack briefs in a more innovative way that will bring more value to the consumer. In addition, Unilever, Mondelez, and Dominos spoke about how technologies help them remain relevant and integrate in consumer lives in a smarter way, while collecting data that helps make marketing more targeted and personalized. ​

How to start implementing: Luckily, Israel is a start-up nation. Every week or so there are at least 3-5 events related to start-ups: demo-days, lectures and meetings, meet-ups, mentoring sessions, and more. Try to attend at least 2 per month, as it’s highly likely that even if it won’t be possible to implement part of the solutions soon or alternatively, that they do not necessarily fit a certain point of view, they will definitely help thinking in a more creative way and especially to understand what set of options are available and get ready to adopt the changes easily, instead of them adopting us. If it's not possible to attend, use the TechDate services to help find the solutions that fit exactly to a brand and it’s needs.  

A personal recommendation - don’t jump to make all the changes at once. To change habits, especially in complex organizations, it's a must to first create awareness and interest and then convert it to ‘buy’. Choose the way that will help ‘open the mind’, to produce new and innovative things in the organization, and hopefully in the next Lions Innovation Festival in 2016,  there will be more campaigns of brands that used the technology of start-ups, brought value to consumers and had business success. And of course a shiny new lion on the way.

Elav Horwitz is the founder of TechDate as part of the McCann Group, a differentiated unit whose mission it is to connect brands and startups and technologies in order to generate breakthroughs in innovative marketing campaigns.