Be wary of the shiny objects


The pressure to innovate is at an all-time high within advertising circles. Here, our Communications Planning Manager Stefan Schoombee gives his opinion on what we should be wary of when we set out to reinvent the wheel.

innovation tech disruption

The advertising industry goes home exhausted. Leaning back in its branded armchair, the industry looks forlornly out of its non-branded window, and whispers “how can I deliver innovation for my brand?”

I would like the armchair to break.

Why? I would prefer it ask itself this question: “how can I offer meaningful differentiation for my brand?”

Before you hit me with a pointy semantics stick, there is a difference. Three in fact.

1) Technology is not innovation

In the media industry, a suggestion for innovation typically jumps straight to scalable, technological innovation. New technology that can target the right person cheaper, better, faster, stronger. To the point it may as well be a new Daft Punk song.

This is largely because we partner with media owners who can offer brands an efficient, scalable advertising product that works across their publisher ecosystem.

For the most part this exchange works.

But occasionally these “shiny objects” lead the industry blind.

We pump out volume over virtue.

We pump out the shiny over the sustainable.

All it takes if for someone to put on metaphorical sunglasses and disrupt this thinking.

Enter ad-blocking.

Ad-blocking should have been anticipated and addressed by the industry far earlier. Easier said than done, sure.

But of course, if you are going to experience daily exposure to visual clutter that diminishes your content experience, and lead to reduced battery life and/or sanity, technology that can tackle this will be attractive to the consumer. And inevitable.

We are starting to wake-up to this now. Branded content and walled gardens are the first steps towards meaningful differentiation.

2) Sustainable innovation

What is really going to make people think differently of advertiser’s products and services, when their competitors are largely using the same advertising formats, messaging and channels as the advertiser themself?

Is “innovation” the answer? In The Simpsons, was “the monorail” the answer?

My point is that standing out from the category is important, but ask yourself  - can we see its sustainability in the market? Are we seeing a growth driven by consumers, not advertisers?

3) Consistent innovation

But on the flipside, please don’t get cold feet too early.

So you have conducted the initial research to prove this innovative investment is worthwhile.

Then what is the point of running this ‘innovative activity’, if you give it up after its first run? Is this due to the same research that told you to conduct the activity in the first place?

By giving up the innovative affiliation so quickly, have you really had the time to build resonance with your audience?

Friends’ come-and-go, but the ones that stick are consistent in contact.

If a brand wants to be seen as ‘innovative’ - be consistent to be believable.


During my business studies, I was told information technology management favours the right technology solution for the business problem, not fitting the business problem to the technology.

I think this is a good approach when it comes to innovation.

Or, be wary of the shiny objects.


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