Many ad agencies now have innovation “labs” patterned after R&D labs in product development companies. For example, R/GA has its Retail and Software Development Labs, BBH’s Labs sit under their Chief Digital Officer, Iris Worldwide just launched The Nursery… there are many, many others… all with the goal of interpreting new technologies and opportunities to clients. It’s not a new concept – R/GA’s first labs appeared in 2004 – but the appetite and demand for this expertise has accelerated with the proliferation of new technologies and marketing platforms.
Clients want to know what trends they should pay attention to, what new apps have staying power, where they should invest, etc.
These “labs” are led by experts and analysts that evaluate which new tech offerings and start-ups can meaningfully deliver on client business objectives… and which should be thrown back or left to bake a little longer. In some cases, these labs may “incubate” young start-ups, helping them to refine and market their service offering, even connecting them to investors and clients. They act like VCs within agencies.
Sounds like a cool gig, right? Like being at CES or SXSW all the time. So how do you get to be an “Innovations Strategist,” trendspotter or digital prophet?
Here’s one take on what Innovation Strategists do. Stay tuned for a future post with an actual Innovation Strategist, outlining the key traits and fundamental skills for this role, plus what happens in innovation labs.