11th August 2016

How Can Communications Agencies Foster Innovation?

Agencies have held a reputation for being hotbeds of creativity, with ground-breaking ideas relentlessly bubbling to the surface, since the long-past Madmen era. Yet, with new technologies and techniques dropping on the doormat daily, the challenge to live up to this reputation is ever more pressing. Time conscious and client-focused – how do we ensure we’re still the place brands turn to when they want to connect with audiences?

It’s not really a new question; in fact, it’s more the age-old question. To survive, agencies must remain relevant and be able to offer brands something more than they can achieve alone. But, how do we make that work in reality?

When it comes to new technology, for example, investing time and energy into understanding what’s out there, how it works and how we can use it is essential. Equally, is immersing ourselves in many industry sectors.

One particularly interesting approach was Ogilvy Labs – the innovation arm of the global consultancy, Ogilvy. The Labs housed a dedicated research and innovation team, which explored and trialled new technologies, before putting them into practice with some really inspiring campaigns, such as “#LookingForYou” with Battersea Dogs and Cats Home. The campaign used RFID tagging in leaflets which activated attention-grabbing moving billboards as shoppers walked around Westfield in London.


Ogilvy Labs was undoubtedly a bold approach and the focus it put on innovation admirable. But, the fact its closure has just been announced throws the spotlight once again onto how agencies can continue making innovation part of the day-to-day.

Perhaps there is something we can learn from the technology sector. If any businesses are under pressure to remain at the forefront of their industry and push boundaries it’s the world’s global technology companies – and there’s no doubt they take innovation seriously. For the likes of Google and Apple, the focus is on employee well-being and designing inspiring work environments to encourage the out-of-the-box thinking and technical innovation that makes them market leaders.

As a business, there are many approaches we can take to encourage innovation, from training to encouraging team members to attend industry events, or even holding away days to take time out from the daily rigours to learn and be creative.

There may not be a clear solution or a formalised approach to fostering innovation – perhaps that’s the key to it – but as long as we take time to learn and experiment with new technologies, as an industry we can remain agile, creative and inspiring.

By Emma Sivakumaran, B2B Senior Account Manager