Ad agencies need to think more creatively says compiler of AFR Most Innovative Companies list

160809_J1A0045LR (1).jpgBy Dr Amantha Imber (left), founder, Inventium

CB Exclusive: There is a lack of creativity in Australia's agencies. While a large number of agencies entered the 2016 Australian Financial Review's Most Innovative Companies list, only four made the cut this year: M&C Saatchi (#6), Leo Burnett Sydney (#14), Clemenger BBDO Melbourne (#43) and digital agency Isobar (#44). The 2016 Australian Financial Review's Most Innovative Companies list, which is now in its fifth year and is judged and compiled by leading Australian innovation consultancy Inventium, attracted over 1000 nominations - twice as many as 2015.

Agencies - whether they be an advertising agency, digital agency, PR or media agency - are all employed by clients for their innovative thinking. It is the most important service that these companies provide. But the agencies that are being truly disruptive are few and far between.
M&C Saatchi were a stand out this year, taking out the prize for best CSR/Social Innovation was M&C Saatchi with their campaign Game of Balls - a porn film that demonstrated to young men how to check for signs of testicular cancer.

Out of the box thinking, as demonstrated in this campaign, were few and far between, with many agency entrants presenting campaigns that were not particularly ground-breaking.

Isobar was another stand out in the pack, taking out the Best Marketing Innovation award with UMOOD for client UNIQLO. In a world-first for the retail industry, UMOOD read the brainwaves of shoppers and made it part of the purchase process.

While wearing a neuro-headset at the in-store UMOOD booth, shoppers were shown a range of video stimuli. The neurological responses in their frontal lobe were analysed in real-time by a custom-built algorithm that identified their current mood and recommended a t-shirt to match, out of the 600 designs UNIQLO has available.

Like Game of Balls, UMOOD flipped category conventions on their head and demonstrated truly unique, clever thinking that had a massive impact for Isobar's client, UNIQLO.

Another commonality between the top ranking agencies is that they focused their innovation efforts inwards - not just towards their clients.

For the last three years, M&C Saatchi has had an incubator-style initiative, which allows staff to pitch their product and service ideas to an internal leadership panel. If successful, they gain capital plus an equivalent in head hours to move the project along. One such idea is called Timesheet Highfive, which is designed to motivate staff to complete their timesheets.

While it is exciting to see that there are some companies in Australia pushing the boundaries of what we thought was possible, it would be great to see more evidence of this when we judge the 2017 Most Innovative Companies list.

Dr Amantha Imber is the founder of Inventium, the innovation consultancy that assesses and compiles the AFR Most Innovative Companies list. Her latest book, The Innovation Formula, tackles the topic of how organisations can create a culture where innovation thrives.

22 Comments

Steve Dodds said:

Usually I am loathe to defend our industry against accusations of diminished creativity.

But this story piqued my interest.

This 'list' is not compiled by any recognised body, but by Inventium, whose raison d'ĂȘtre (aside from having an obnoxiously inane name) is selling themselves as a fount of innovation in a desert of conformity.

So there is a major conflict of interest.

Then there is the question of whether Inventium would know anything about creativity even if it nibbled on their inventioligist ears and whispered sweet nothings.

I suspect not.

Check out their website.

A larger pile of jargonistic poo would be very hard to find.

Their 'service' appears to consist of telling companies they aren't innovative enough, signing them up to their innovation course, and then telling them they have become 43% more innovative simply because they think they have.

Congrats to the 'winners'.

But this whole thing is bollocks.

right... said:

Fuck off idiot.

... said:

The words 'few and far between' were not. I'm sure your book would be an interesting read.

Shocked said:

Dr Amantha Imber, I would like to know if you or any of your associates actually called the company/client for Game and balls and spoke to them about how innovative this idea was for their business?

OS said:

Having worked for most of the big agencies in Sydney I know that almost every first round of work presented has some world-class creative solutions. Then it's all downhill from there.

I think you'll find it's the incredibly conservative clients in Australia who need to think more creatively. The agencies are mostly fine.

@OS said:

It's a mix of both, but it's the agencies that are generally blamed for not being innovative. Advertising has become an output industry, with a lot of client side marketers thinking they know better.

Paul Hankinson said:

What are you talking about, Doddsy? She said "out of the box".

M&C are really innovative said:

Just click the link to see how innovative they are

http://www.campaignbrief.com/2016/08/nrma-insurance-gives-customers.html

Game of bollocks said:

Stfu Inventium. Ridiculous name for a mob of unknowns judging a dubious campaign for the 'blue balls society' Really?

teddy said:

Yeah and as innovative as you could get for the cover of the book is a light bulb.

Clients said:

I agree. It's mostly the clients. But sometimes it's the uncultured fratboy creatives that just copy that latest thing on YouTube.
Mostly clients though. Australia certainly isn't creative in the corporate sphere.

ROG said:

It's rubbish. DT is the most innovative company in the world. Just ask them.

1986 said:

fuck off mate, your last good ad was a shitty powerade ad in 1986

if you were innovative you'd be a podcast said:

This article is nothing more than a spruik for a course.
But let's not get confused about what we do:
Advertising Agencies sell ads.
Sometimes in innovative ways with innovative formats.
Innovation like awards is not the reason to be, it's just an aspect of what we do.
And crap like this article helps no-one.
It's almost as stupid as saying we need more blue in Advertising.


The real problem said:

As an industry we need to stop taking advice on 'creativity' from accountants. Fuck off AFR.

Fly said:

M&C have jumped the shark alarm......

Eaon said:

Because someone is expert in one particular field does not mean that their opinions in another field are useful. In this case, the opinions on what is or is not innovative in advertising are are irrelevant and of no importance - in any case the arguments are fallacious - and demonstrate no understanding of what advertising is for, or how it works. Let's also solicit the views of some pop stars and actors. Hang on, we do that at Cannes every year, anyway.

Welcome Amantha said:

To the confident and self assured industry that can take any criticism thrown it's way

@amantha said:

You're not a wordsmith are you.

Mike said:

I'd like to see what the experts at Atomic 212 think...

Honestly said:

It's very easy to sit on the outside and comment. Like a fat guy on a couch screaming at the TV about how he thinks the Australian basketball team should be playing. Dr Imber, you are that fat man, Inventium is your couch, while we the players are busting our nuts to play a good game in the face of ridiculous challenges. Go get some nachos and think more creatively next time. Thank you.

homie said:

extremely satisfied with the work delivered by http://www.tspa.com.au I spoke highly ability to keep the customer at the center of all decision making, as well as their innovative ideas to update the client's brand. I highly recommends this company to others.
They really showed their passion for helping our organization. I feel they excel at honing in on the personal experience of the customer and ensuring that their interest always remains paramount. It was a great relationship.

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