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Diversify or get left in the dust

Diversify or get left in the dust
Lena Robinson, UK Business Development Director at Dentsu Aegis Network, looks back at the first Diversification AdaptLab and what she learnt from the morning's workshop

I attended the IPA’s "D is for Diversification" Adaptathon session recently hosted by The Bakery. I turned up fizzing with excitement, relishing the adventure of discovering technology that challenges the status quo and provide solutions to client challenges.

This community of mature tech start-ups is a particular passion of mine, both professionally, as UK Business Development Director at Dentsu Aegis Network, and in my personal life.

And I was not disappointed. Wow, did I get my geek on! I came away inspired, reinvigorated and with my mind running wild with ideas.

I love our industry, but sometimes we spend too much time contemplating our own navels, not hanging with ‘the cool kids’. The bigger agencies in particular (and dare I say it clients) don’t do this enough. They think they know better.

But, with sessions like this I can see some of us are waking up and smelling the coffee. I heard one brand representative say ‘start-ups solve a lot of our cultural issues’, which I applaud. What a great attitude for a global FMCG brand to have, looking to smaller more nimble SME’s for inspiration.

Luckily I work with some really smart people, like Piers Taylor and Sam Battams from Vizeum (part of Dentsu Aegis Network). A highly innovative media agency that is not just talking a good game when it comes to innovation, but creating game changing opportunities for their clients to make business led, not simply media led, innovation happen.

They spoke at the event about how they guided their clients, ABInbev, Panasonic, Heinz and BMW through the initial launch project for The Bakery, (the world's first technology accelerator designed specifically for the advertising and marketing sector) to find tech businesses that could push boundaries and provide cutting edge real- world solutions.

Examples were put forward such as the BMW iGenius by London Brand Management (LBM), a Siri-like Artificial Intelligence Q&A service which answers customer enquiries about the BMWi electric car.

Clients look to agencies for inspiration, innovation and out-of-the-box thinking. But are we getting out of our comfort zones, going to events like those put on by the IPA/The Bakery, or by tech community supporters like the 3Beards whose sole aim is supporting and growing the tech community that is so vibrant in London?

If you do, you are going to come away inspired, re-energised and reinvigorated about our industry and regain those first flickers of excitement that we had when we first got into this industry.

I am very lucky to work for an agency network that has diversification in its DNA. In order for agencies (and clients) to plan for diversification, they first have to empower their people (and clients) to try something new and be a bit maverick.

It’s why the 70/20/10 model is a philosophy we believe in whole heartedly. So when I was asked how we plan to diversify I simply answered ‘we already are’.

With Vizeum’s on-going involvement with Tech City incubators and accelerators, iProspect’s involvement with organisations like Google (such as the joint event late last year about the magic that happens when ‘Art meets Science’), I believe we’re leading our clients to brighter, more profitable futures.

A lot of our clients come to us with business issues that one agency alone can’t answer. All face the challenge of an increasingly convergent media landscape and the way we’ve responded to this is by building an operating model consisting of specialist agencies with the breadth and depth of services our clients require to cope in this modern-day media maelstrom.

We do currently work to a time-based model, but more often than not we’re offering ideas-based, innovation driven remuneration models that are performance/outcome based.

So diversification, is it necessary? Yes definitely, and we can learn a lot from the nimble, innovative approaches that the tech start-ups we saw at The Bakery are taking.

How do we ensure we as larger organisations (agency and client alike) are diversifying the way we need to for the future?

Therein lies the challenge for our industry as a whole. So don’t be left wallowing in the dust.

Lena Robinson, UK Business Development Director, Dentsu Aegis Network, @LenaRobinson

Last updated 19/02/2014

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