Interviews, insight & analysis on digital media & marketing

Silver linings and silver bullets – Innovation in a Covid world

Innovation in the advertising industry might be one silver lining of the protracted coronavirus pandemic, according to leading industry figures.

Both Jamie Davies, head of innovation at Amplify, and Marek Wrobel, head of media futures at Havas Media Group, believe that Covid-19 has accelerated creativity and new ways of working.  

Wrobel suggests that innovation will come from both the “big guys” and the start-ups, who naturally “think in an out of the ordinary way”. “Google, Facebook and so on will continue shaping the industry, but I think there is a kind of magic in the start-up space,” he says, with new augmented reality solutions, products and tools likely to appear next year.

“We have seen this shift to digital for a lot of people this year for the very first time, and that’s why I think we need new ideas and solutions to drive this shift,” continues Wrobel. “I think we can expect to see many new start-ups on the stage because of reasons such as redundancy or a realisation that there are new solutions needed.

The democratisation of innovation

“Innovation in general will become more democratised because there are more people thinking about it and coming up with ideas. As scary as this time is, I try to look for silver linings, such as these ‘Covid’ experiments where people have started trying to do things differently.”

He points to an AR app launched by a Scottish housing association, which shows people how to fix things in their houses because technicians were unable to enter homes. Such solutions offer purpose over hype, being both useful and usable.

Davies agrees that Covid-19 has “forced innovation at pace and forces us to look at things through a different lens”.

It is one reason why agencies are becoming increasingly interested in partnering with start-ups and external experts, a trend that had already started to take hold, though both agree there is no set best route to success. Some will look to buy in talent, others to partner on projects, whilst another route is in investing in the start-ups themselves.

Shining a light on the new innovators

Davies points to initiatives such as NDA’s Innovation Sessions, of which both he and Wrobel were judges, as ways of finding new talent, particularly in a new socially distanced world.

“They are shining a light on what is out there,” he says, helping supplement his existing network of connections built through platforms such as LinkedIn and personal recommendations. “You get to see these great up-and-coming companies and these great innovators, these smaller shops and sole traders.”

He believes interaction with and between innovators is particularly important at the moment in order to share ideas and stories “because it is tough out there and there is no silver bullet for a post-Covid world”.