Take aways from Innovation Stories 2015

Think big
Start Small
Act Fast

Jeremy Basset, Global Marketing Strategy Director at, Unilever

Innovation Stories was a morning packed with innovation leaders, insightful speakers and lots and lots of ideas. First held in 2012 the event was created to help newly appointed innovation champions share ideas on what their role was about and how they could provide innovation services to their clients. The role for agencies remains critical today as we see innovation being led from in-house, incubators, labs and elsewhere.

Although there’s no one size fits all, the stories shared highlight innovation best practice:

1/ Innovation is a mindset not a department

Innovation must be understood as a culture running throughout the business rather than as a separate function.

Jeremy Basset, Global Marketing Strategy Director at Unilever shared some amazing insights from their Foundry program. Since its creation in 2014 the Unilever Foundry has seen:

  • $6m+ invested into pilots
  • 65+ startups piloted
  • 32+ start-ups being scaled-up

Jeremy highlighted the need for innovation to be collaborative to be successful. If a great idea stays in a PowerPoint it dies.

Hamish Nicklin, Managing Director of AOL UK shared similar insights and outlined AOL’s vision for ‘culture and code’ working together – something the business applies to help drive its mergers and acquisitions:

AOL UK: Innovation + VISION

2/ Innovation should be commerce first not technology first

There was a constant thread throughout the day that innovation was not about new shiny things but a tangible source of growth for the business. As many CEOs are former CFOs, innovation must focus on driving business impact.

  • Jeremy Basset of Unilever confirmed that the key to impact is commercial relevance.
  • Jonny Spindler, Chief Innovation Officer, AMV BBDO, discussed the need for innovation to focus on the core business. For example, if you’re Nestle, why incubate start-ups that create apps instead of focusing on chocolate making? Most companies need agencies to focus on immediate solutions to ensure that the business is still there in five years time – rather than trying to sell an innovative idea that won’t reach the customer for five years.
  • Michael Johnston, Strategy Director at Hirsch & Mann Ltd shared his definition of innovation as ”the successful exploitation of ideas that address future customers needs in order to drive growth.”  

3/ The future of agencies might be in scaling-up not starting-up

Jonny Spindler shared his thoughts on the best approach for agencies to provide innovation services. Because it is a core capacity for agencies to build commercial models, and because they are businesses themselves, it leads them to become partners to other businesses in helping them to scale-up. This means helping big companies scale-up their innovations as much as helping start-up scaling-up to mass market.

Start up are great to help bring business intelligence on innovation to larger corporations but they don’t bring growth – which is what the business needs in the first place.

Lawrence Weber, Managing Partner, innovation at Karmarama to add “Agencies need to embrace new models to avoid being squeezed out of the equation”.

On a end note, the most inspiring idea of the day which was from Danielle Fiandaca who spoke about what3words – a project which assigns 3 words to each one of 57 trillion 3m x 3m squares worldwide – solving the problem of addressing in large parts of the developing world.


The digital transformation of BBVA bank

At Wired Money 2015 in London, Francisco Gonzàles – Chairman and CEO at BBVA shared how they lead their transformation and what digital means to the bank.

Here’s some of the insights I gathered:

Resilient Brands: workshop and tools

The digital revolution changes everything. It’s the force driving shifts in markets, customers and organisations. To survive and thrive, businesses face a dual challenge: staying ahead of the competition while transforming their own organisation.

Our belief: you need to be customer-focused to compete. We develop strategies around the customer, their needs, their world, their experience.

Our approach: We take a strategic approach in four key areas (brand, experience, content and culture). Everything we do contributes to building a brand from its purpose to the customer experience.

We aim beyond the sale, to gain their advocacy.

We develop resilient brands:
– Build a resilient brand: aligns belief, strategy and experience.
– A shared purpose and values with customers.
– Authentic communications with an engaged audience.

Purpose of the workshop
I would like you to experience the way we build brands at Brilliant Noise. The workshop is an opportunity to test some of our tools and exercises so you can take-away something useful you can act on, take a first step forward creating a resilient brand.

Read the Resilient Brands book:

The impact of social media on the customer experience

Last week was the release of a new book “Understanding Social Media” (here on Amazon) in which I shared my point of view on why social media is central to customer experience.

Building on the Big Spaceship idea that “Your brand is the sum of its interactions”, I suggest that brand actively embed social platforms around their customer experience design. There’s an opportunity to structure systems of conversations in relation to the brand, the business and the customers. Customers being the key insight to adding value.

How? By gathering data and conversational insights at each stage of the customer experience. The brand narrative should be scaled from one-on-one conversations people are having together instead of being led by the brand story. Isabelle mentions the Zappos #NEXTOOTD customer service on Instagram that was inspired by customers as a one-on-one #OOTD conversations. Zappos used an existing behaviour to create a more valuable customer experience, the content being purposeful, entertaining and commercial.

There’s an imperative to transform the way we approach social media because:
– Traditional comms planning frameworks don’t fit the complexity of social systems,
– The culture of campaigns is making it worse for everyone,
– Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest are not social media but technical platforms for communities to gather

The article suggests a series of new principles to start the transformation and increase the impact of social media on the customer experience – and the brand.

Get your copy

Understanding Social Media Isabelle Quevilly Book

7 Trends for 2015

It’s that time of year again, here’s our list of the trends that will change the way we work and approach the market in 2015.

Disruptors 2.0

A new generation of businesses will rise based on the first generation of digital disruptors. While Tinder became a hit by matching 1.2 billion profiles a day, Hinge have raised $12M by adding another layer to the service. Hinge allows users to meet with a “friend of a friend”, pushing boundaries and exploring new potential that old dating websites, ala match.com or eHarmony haven’t explored yet. This new generation is copying and improving every possible idea.

Dirty tricks no more

Consumers will condemn and react to amoral businesses practices, for example Uber raising fare prices in Sydney during the recent siege. Users will have an opinion, and they will share it with their networks, customers will expect CEOs to explain unreasonable business behavior.

Uber has had a spate of bad PR, including their NYC General Manager cancelling bookings for competitor services, and allegedly aggressive lobbying in the US. The scandals have extended to litigation, with numerous law suits being brought against the company. This should serve as a reminder that a businesses need morals in the age of the connected consumer.

Pics Pics Pics

With Instagram overtaking Twitter by hitting 300M monthly users, and pictures delivering the highest engagement rates, brands will be looking at further ways to utilise photography. This year, brands will try to create branded images by capturing new angles with drones and GoPros.

Space missions

The recent footage from Rosetta has reignited the world’s passion for space conquest and all the mysteries that brings. The recent Virgin Galactic crash reminds us that we are still at the beginning of space exploration.

Lunar Mission One has raised £ 571,000 from 6,000 backers on Kickstarter by offering the world first “user-generated” space mission. The recent NY Times feature: 28 months on Mars highlights the current level of interest in space conquest. Space X’s work with reusable rockets are also generating a lot of attention.

Red Bull has already tapped into this insight with Stratos… but how can more brands fulfill of our intergalactic dreams?

Elementary my dear

IBM Watson opening up its API means that cognitive computing will continue turning big data into smart data. Marketers will tap into new, powerful sources of information to help connect with consumers. Imagine being able to merge data from different industries and discover new clusters of opportunity. This intelligence will bring a whole new world of possibility. Your business might not be ready yet but it’s worth having a look at Watson and understanding how it may be used in your industry.


Businesses will keep on opening up APIs to speed up their capacity to innovate and generate new business models out of their core ideas. Ecosystems of APIs will start emerging around innovative brands who are willing to share and learn fast. Industries like banking will benefit from plugging into the API ecosystem to help them swiftly catch-up with their disruptive competitors.

Robot love

They’ve been in the background for years as a dream but Robots are becoming a reality, with consumers apparently ready to make them part of their lives. Jibo has raised more than $2M on Indiegogo by promising the start of the family robot. And many more robots have been welcomed and supported by Kickstarter community, from Stompi, Sparki to Kibo everyone is making Robots a reality. Momath have just launched a new interactive exhibition featuring robots and celebrating artificial intelligence, another sign this is going mainstream.

Originally published on Brilliant Noise’s blog: enjoy lots of brilliant reads…!

In a digital-first world, API is the new media

Instead of paying the big price for media exposure, businesses should move some of these budgets toward creating APIs, loads of APIs, around each single area of the business. Facebook Connect is a great example of how an API can help a business own a unique space in the market. Stripe is another good example of the benefits for the business in terms of reach. Releasing an API puts you in a privileged position with the B2B audiences of developers – an audience who is difficult to reach but remains very influential.

In a hyper connected world, APIs are a strong alternative to:
– Bring a brand to life
– Built-in growth into the core business
– Federate relevant audiences

Building sets of APIs forces the business to have a clear understanding of what it wants to achieve in this world. Call it mission, vision, purpose… Whatever suits you best, if you want to gather interest and sell something you’d better stand for something anyway. When you design a service and enable the world to build on it, you also give your brand some space. APIs create the space brands need to showcase their uniqueness, talent, creativity… They also add new values to a brand showing it willingness to be part of the makers trend as well as the collaborative economy. This is a reality that cannot grow from traditional marketing.

When you create an API, your data aggregates to million of other businesses’ data. You are reducing costs for research, quality assurance, updates… It’s a scenario in which most of your costs become an investment into a sustainable platform. It’s a framework that enables any level of communications: one-to-one, one-to-many, brand-to-many, brand-to-brand… It’s endless and cost effective compared to any form of paid-earned-owned media. The API is the true “medium is the message” McLuhan was seeing at his time.

When you design for audiences in mind, you enable your shift the needs to communicate into a platform for advocacy. You don’t need your to “advertise”, you offer others to build-on what you’re creating.

There are a few new layers of interest your bring to your brand. A few years ago, the start of social media forced marketing teams to create a voice for their brands. It made them feel more human for a while… but now it seems that they are always just all about themselves… like you know, advertising is.

By going down the API, digital route, you add whole new layers to your brands:
– vulnerable: the business admits that it doesn’t have all answers,
– undefined: an API is by essence a work in progress,
– worthy of attention: it’s generous action, an attempt at doing something with others.

Unlike “perishable” advertising messages, an API is work, hard work, long hours of work. Unlike advertising, releasing an API says to the world, I am trying to make something better, please help.

APIs answer todays’ challenges to deliver sustainable growth in a lean manner. A business capable of releasing APIs brings is better equipped to cope with speed, uncertainty or change. Marketing has changed. It is our role to understand how we spark growth through disruptive technologies and brands.

“(…) we live in a world that is changing so fast – at Unilever we call it a VUCA world: volatile, uncertain, changing and ambiguous. Therefore, there is a constant need to re-evaluate the way we as a company, not just marketing-wise, but business-wise, adapt to this changing environment: to new technologies, to new partnerships, to new possibilities.”

Up At Night, Interview with Marc Mathieu by Contagious magazine

Today, I hate the Internet

Today, I hate an Internet that cannot wait. An Internet that craves for traffic over hope.

I hate an Internet where journalists are gone and when the news is made out of nothing.

I don’t want to see outpouring RIP love for a friend who might just be injured.

Who are you people? Are you thinking of wives, children, families… How can you call this love when you burry without official confirmation?

Today, I hate the Internet who wants me to mourn a friend who might just be thriving for his life.

So Today, I won’t go on the Internet.

Today, I will pray for my friend to fight where ever he is and for rescue teams to rescue him.

I will stand strong for my dearest friend, his partner, who doesn’t want to hear that the Father of her young boy didn’t make it. Because we know, he will do all he can do go through this, and he wouldn’t expect less from us.

Ingrid, je t’envoie tout mon amour – JP, sois fort.


Virgin America: the end of websites as we know them

A tweet about the new Virgin America website picked my curiosity yesterday… What could be so different about an airline website? Well…

Virgin America

That’s the thing. This revamp is a clever solution to use digital as a real touchpoint for consumers to achieve what they are here for. It’s a counter to book a flight, which is all you expect and need really.

“We took a fresh look. We wanted to not even think about it as an airline site, but as an ecommerce site,” Luanne Calvert, Virgin’s chief marketing officer, told Mashable.

The website looks like an app which is brilliant because today there is no need for a website and an app and something else. There is not a need I understand users expectations when they connect with you. It’s on their terms not the companies’ ones anymore.

From a branding standpoint, I was so pleased to see a real attitude. The use of icons, the tones and the language developed throughout are all amazing answers into creating a space that is truly unique to the Virgin America brand. Who else could combine irreverence, impeccable service and risk taking?

Capture d’écran 2014-06-18 à 6.27.56 PM

Finally, it’s also a strong asset to offer an experience that is not lagging and making it over complicated. The vertical design works on all devices, and the font are super legible, they are little call outs from the interface making it “easy” and “fast” to digest and play with on a mobile. The opposite of the category where you have to fill in long complicated forms on a tiny mobile scree…

How come no one took such a step before? Well. Maybe the ongoing benchmark of the industry that uses best practices as a starting point for the brief…? Umm funny enough, the web is old as well. An most airlines websites are old stuff.

Another reason are the CMS and tech solutions that have been leading the user experience. It’s a reality for many companies, for the sake of savings costs, you don’t build custom solutions and yet, you sacrifice branding. It’s time for a change because if you don’t understand and brand your business properly in the digital space you will be forgotten in no time.

I’m pleased to think that finally we are there. A new era where brands understand how to best use the meeting spaces users allow them in their life.

Book your flights!
Support risk takers.

Steps like that one are essentials for our industry to move forward.

If you want to take a tour by Virgin America.

Bravo VirginAmerica!

6 months later… “Ego and eyes were bigger than tummy”

Publicis Omnicom Groupe: what a great time for advertising to die

It’s been more than a week now and I can’t help thinking of the consequences of that super merger. It might make sense for some financially but the whole thing sounds more like a game of Thrones than a forward thinking offer to lead global brands towards the future.

One wanted to leave a legacy and the other one wanted to be sat in front of the Arc de Triomphe thinking “that could be mine”.[1] Oh well. Should we be surprised that advertising is about ego?


Maurice Lévy is proud to “build something quite incredible in terms of crunching the data”: does he really think the future of advertising as a game of media targeting? A technical commodity that others can serve much more effectively. How can you deliver powerful insights if your data is siloed by client? To truly deliver on this offer, someone would need to get governments, consumer associations and brands willing to share their data between each other. Outside of being an over rated topic, “big data” has recently be shown as a very delicate positioning as citizens and governments being more involved in the data generation, protection and use processes. Apparently Maurice Lévy didn’t hear about PRISM and how aware consumers are becoming about the collection and use of their data… Does he really believe new generations will be happy for an advertising network to own their data? The idea of an “Audience on Demand unit”[2]  made me want to cry.


Owning 73% of the global paid media weight [3] might sound exciting if you are from the 70s but knowing how little relevancy it actually offers to brands… This sounds slightly overrated. When looking at how their key agencies spend their media in digital – through Google – you can also question the role of the advertising network versus the media partner. Why would clients deal with “the Groupe” when they can get better deals – and creativity from Google see Art Copy Code examples. How can Publicis Omnicom Groupe show understanding of marketing in the post-digital age when their main offer is paid media? Consumers are spending more and more time on mobile devices – an environment proven to be a failure for display.


In the last two years, Martin Sorell’s WPP has made some major progresses on the digital front through training, talent acquisition and of course the acquisition of AKQA.  With R/GA and Huge in its portfolio, Interpublic delivers some of the most innovative digital platforms. Creating a “giant” in today’s market sounds like the exact opposite of what clients are expecting from their agency. How can brands and companies innovate if they are limited by the structure of their advertising network? Clients want bespoke, nimble, custom-made, agile solutions that can be implemented quickly. The new order, led by technology, is one where people come to you and where creativity matters more than ever. Something that is – surprisingly – not mentioned at all in the conversations around this merger. Razorfish, Critical Mass, LBi… Where’s the big creative-digital portfolio to become a global leader?

What excites me is the opportunity all this creates for a new age of marketing, a new generation of agencies, brands and entrepreneurs to change the game. Now that the old generation has officially put itself out of the competition, anyone can establish the guidelines for a creative x technology led marketing.

What a great time for display advertising to die!

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