DDB Group has launched an in-house innovation lab, with a brief to solve real human problems and create new revenue streams.
The agency intends to own and monetise any ideas developed in the lab, called °shaper, taking them from conception right through to finished product.
DDB chief operating officer Chris Riley says the agency’s strategic and creative skills could be applied to more than advertising and in doing so, had the potential to deliver entirely new revenue streams to the company and new products for consumers to use.
“This is ground-breaking territory for a New Zealand agency and we believe it will become an agency business model for the future,” he said.
Staff have already been invited to pitch ideas that ‘solve real human problems’ through the creation of technology platforms or utilities and Chris Riley says they have seen a number of good, realisable ideas.
“We are committing significant agency time, resources and funds into °shaper to help get the best ideas developed, including putting our own money behind it,” Riley says.
The agency intends working with chosen partners and potentially clients to bring ideas to life in what will be a shared ownership and revenue model. It hopes eventually to create new revenue streams, direct from consumers and businesses, around products that go to market.
“Ideally we’re likely to use our in-house capabilities to develop at least one of the ideas initially, as well as work with Callaghan Innovation to take the right idea further,” Riley says.
Callaghan Innovation stakeholder Toby Littin has been invited to sit on the assessment panel and Riley believes his knowledge and connections with how incubator ideas get to market will help provide a framework for turning the ideas into marketable products and services more quickly.
“The programme will allow us to test the opportunity to develop IP and monetise this throughout the network,” Riley said. “If the idea is good enough, we’ll have no hesitation in committing a percentage of the agency’s revenue into R&D, as required to get a government grant.”
Toby Littin applauded the DDB initiative: “I take my hat off to the agency and the people behind this lab. The first step in innovation is having somewhere to take your idea, and DDB is making this happen.
“We’re excited that °shaper may enable high value manufactured goods and services businesses to evolve from within the DDB team.”
Successful applicants will be gifted a day per week to work on making the idea a reality and will ultimately share in the financial upside from any successful initiative.
DDB Digital CD Haydn Kerr says he’s encouraged by the response to the brief. “We recognise that creative is not a department here and a wide range of people from different roles within the group are excited to get on board.
“We’re also not asking people to save the world, although that would be nice. Some human problems are small and annoying, but wouldn’t it be great if we could find a way to make them go away too.”
In Australia, DDB has run three °shaper sessions to date, resulting in two completed prototypes and one in development. The first is a wearable tech solution within the active lifestyle segment, the second a platform solution toward public safety, and the third in development is aimed at cyber bullying.
DDB Australia & NZ chairman Martin O’Halloran says °shaper recognises that the communications business is a creative one, but also one that increasingly relies on innovation to develop business solutions.
“We want our staff, and our clients, to see how committed we are to innovation now and in the future,” he said.
“After all, ideas are great. But making things is better.”
About Callaghan Innovation
Callaghan Innovation (www.callaghaninnovation.govt.nz) is a Government agency created in 2013, with mission to accelerate the commercialisation of innovation by businesses in New Zealand. With a key coordination role in New Zealand’s innovation system, Callaghan Innovation provides a single front door to the skills, advice, support and technical services that businesses need to turn ideas into internationally marketable products and services faster and more successfully. Among the things it does are: Fund R&D, with $141m a year for grants to businesses; advise on innovation, including connecting businesses to training programmes and experts; and provide research and technical services that support near-to-market innovation by businesses.
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