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Should you get a Labs Division?

(A small one, like).

So I’ve decided to turn the old, drafty Tudor period Gasp storeroom into the Gasp Labs Division whilst the directors are away. They’ll be fine about it.

Currently there is not too much in it, mind. Just a Bunsen Burner, and some of that orange rubber tubing you used to get at school. But it’s a start.

I’d been vaguely aware of Labs for a while. By lab, just to clarify, I’m talking about setting up of a small division with a completely separate agenda from the larger brand or agency’s vision, invariably aiming to achieve genuine innovation.

Arguably the most famous lab is Google’s lab, Google X. You are probably aware of their work on trying to bring us a driverless car.

It sounds like something from X-files, but when actually listening to their ethos, it a simple, familiar philosophy:

“Firstly, there has to be a problem that we can identify,” says Astro Teller, “and sometimes that’s harder than you would think.”

Firstly, there has to be a problem that we can identify,” says Astro Teller, “and sometimes that’s harder than you would think.

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A quirky take on the ‘never be in fear of failure’ mantra, Google X actually rewards failure. Their thinking being people won’t continue to take the risks that lead to pioneering development if they are continuously knocked back.

Arguably the most attractive thing about a lab, for me, from a pure creative perspective is that the first motive is not ‘how can it make a lot of money’, but more ‘let’s discover something new and cool’.

The general flow and development of most successful companies will be an incremental, steady improvement, but a lab is about setting aside time and investment to get so far ahead, that when the field/market catches up, you have your flag in the ground and can say: we were here first, and the product is market ready.

I had a meeting with a chap from Exterion this week, regarding some outdoor advertising. May not appear out of the ordinary, but I feel it’s pertinent here.

There is some exciting, innovative stuff going on in Outdoor, I was talking to JCDecaux also, but prior to working on this job I knew very little on it.

Giles and Sophie, the Directors here at Gasp, are very savvy and knowledgeable. Yes, they expect this current job to deliver and be profitable, yet equally they gave me some exploratory free reign, which in essence is a little lab like.

My new knowledge of what is possible in the realms of DOOH (Which I blogged about before here), could be the solution to a future project we don’t know about yet.

Clearly, it would be lovely to have the extra huge amount of cash to set up a labs division, so for the smaller agency, it is not really viable.

But anyone can set time and a corner aside to read, discover something new, to try things out.

OK, it’s not the true innovation like you get in labs: we are not creating drones that can be flown by weasels here at Gasp. But, just like the guy at Google X, we are first and foremost solving problems.

It might not seem like much, but I took time out to read the Drum this week, which I don’t do enough, and this blog came out of it, as well as a bit more knowledge on current trends.

Crucially, there are big hitters that are on the look out for innovative new companies. As Rose Lewis talks about in her article in this week’s Drum, Unilever has embraced start-ups. The Foundry has been established, in partnership with Cannes Lions, which gives the chance for 50 highly promising marketing and advertising tech startups to go to Cannes Lions Innovation weekend, a truly great showcase.

So maybe it’s a case of joining a lab, rather than creating one.

It is also Unilever who are in partnership with Guardian Labs, as they are putting a lot of investment into bringing about positive innovation.

Ogilvy Group’s lab website is well worth a look. With great contributions from Rory Sutherland, it has a similar ethos to Unilever; that of supporting new business ventures.

It’s a daunting thought that the best solution to your client’s problem is something that you currently have no concept of.

But, like the people at Google X, do not fear failure and the unknown, for as long as you are naturally inquisitive, and receptive to partnerships that enhance your output, you will find it.

 


 

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11/05/2015

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