Awarding versus Rewarding Innovation.

I’ve spent a fair amount of time talking about failing fast, failing smart, embracing risk and the like as it relates to experimenting, piloting and/or collaborating with startups.

To date, my sense is that the industry “feels” that the bridge between Madison Avenue and Mountain View is either already important or will become increasingly important. That’s the good news. The bad news is that it’s still early days in the space — and as a “grizzled old-timer” who has lived (barely) through the rise, fall and resurrection of digital and subsequent déjà vu all over again of social and mobile, I can attest to the fact that the learning and adoption curve is still a fairly steep and arduous one.

I think it’s a safe assumption (sure thing) that the wave of marketing-led innovation through technology is not just a gentle crest, but in fact a tsunami of epic proportions — and how we get to this point is a lot less clear in terms of path, progression and process.

One of the “signs of life” offering proof that we are heading in the right direction is the cockroach of the advertising profession, the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity, which has just introduced a new award category to recognize innovation and how it leads to the birth of powerful ideas.

Believe it or not, I’m not being derogatory (could have fooled me!) here. In fact, I’m referencing a good friend and mentor, luminary, visionary and Megamind, Rishad Tobaccowala, who first referenced our need to be cockroaches in order to adapt and survive the technology apocalypse.

Led by Droga5’s David Droga, himself a product of reinvention and evolution in the advertising world, the jury awarded Cinder, an open-source software platform created by Barbarian Group, with the first-ever Grand Prix in this category. Cinder was given this award because, according to one reason given, it was created on an open-source platform and has been used in the development of several additional campaigns that also featured prominently in the Cannes Festival.

Consider Cinder the “Intel Inside” of technology-infused creativity, if you like!

Two remarks from the jury struck me with particular interest about entries that didn’t win (versus the ones that did):

1.     They were in the wrong category and/or could have been in any category.

2.     They were “too premature.”

I kind of think that’s the whole point, though. Innovation should not necessarily be bucketed into a siloed vertical category, but in fact should be ever-present in each and every category. Put differently, innovation entries that have horizontal applicability should be elevated, not relegated.

Secondly, I believe strongly in early-stage startups, and would give an award to a big, disruptive idea scribbled almost illegibly on a Starbucks napkin. We are after all in the ideas business, are we not?

While I wasn’t there, I’d certainly like to throw my hat in the jury ring to help evolve this emerging category in the years to come. As the author of “Life after the 30-second spot,” I believe I’m on the Cannes Most Wanted List, but hopefully innovation will help provide me with an official pardon.

By Joseph Jaffe
Joseph Jaffe is founder and CEO of Evol8tion, an innovation agency that matches early stage start-ups with blue-chip brands. He has written three books, including “Flip the Funnel.”
Courtesy of MediaPost

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