Flite's Guest Blogger series features the industry's top thought-leaders to share insights on display advertising, agile marketing, and innovation.

Jeff Bernstein is the EVP, Global Managing Partner at Universal McCann San Francisco.


Jeff Bernstein, EVP Global Managing Partner Company Universal McCannCreative Agencies, Media Agencies, VCs and Incubators have made valiant attempts to address the insatiable desire brands have for innovative ideas…almost without fail manifesting itself in Client meccas to Silicon Valley to attend “Innovation Days.” 

Who hasn’t had a “geo-fencing” or “social gaming” day in the past couple years?

Has it amounted to anything?

To be fair, these days can be successful at surfacing emerging companies in particular spaces.  It certainly offers a “networking” opportunity.

But as far as real business value, defined by a) translating to deals and b) creating long term value for either the new media company or the client, these events are wildly ineffective. 

There is a long list of reasons why these days don’t yield results, namely:

1) Emerging media is difficult to measure and scale, making it incredibly difficult to validate the value of a campaign unless it is directly correlated to sales/actions.

2) Clients who carry an emerging media title/mandate, for the most part:

a) Do not own budgets and can’t say yes.

b) Do not carry much sway with the budget owners of their own companies.

c) Are often short-lived in their jobs, and don’t leave an institutional knowledge of emerging companies when they move on.

3) Clients who own budgets:

a) Carry hard quarterly goals that do not lend themselves to investment and experimentation.

b) Require scale immediately, which rules out a majority of emerging opportunities.

c) Even if they have emerging media test budgets, these clients are looking to use new media in the same way they use old media, to find an audience efficiently. The result is that they don’t manage the test correctly and end up re-purposing old assets into the new media, thus squandering the ability to truly understand potential.

What is the remedy for this dysfunctional process? We’ve spent a lot of time at UM SF on this very problem and have developed an innovative approach to creating a mutually-beneficial bridge between Clients and the Start-up community.

While I won’t give away all of our secrets, I can tell you that it is based on the following tenets:

1) Media is more important than it used to be.
2) Media can address more significant client issues than reaching a target audience in context.
3) The center of the universe is our client’s business issue, not the start-up’s business plan.
4) It is a facilitated and collaborative session, not a show-up and throw-up demo day.
5) An innovation pilot is like a tree falling in the woods if it lacks an apples-to-apples comparison and benchmark of how those dollars could have been used in core media.

So have we solved it? Time -- and our clients beating the snot out of their competitors -- will tell.