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https://econsultancy.com/images/awards-logo.png?1329307452Over the past month we’ve spoken a lot about the nature of innovation in business, and during the course of these posts we’ve looked at ways to foster an innovative spirit within your company, as well as justifying the cost and protecting the budget. 

But what if you aren’t the one who ultimately has to pay if your ground-breaking new ideas don’t make the cut? 

A large number of our Innovation Awards entries come from agencies, which have to work doubly hard to justify unusual or experimental campaign choices, yet still manage to deliver some of the most exciting new ideas every year.

In today’s Innovation Question , we look more closely at exactly how they manage this. 

Are most clients happy to go along with innovative ideas, or do you have to work hard to persuade them to take chances?

Many of those who answered felt that there was a genuine mix here. New clients in particular are often understandably wary of anything too outlandish, but there are plenty of ways to convince them.

Sri Sharma from Net Media Planet explains: 

It depends, some love to try new things others are more reserved or have legal guidelines that limit what they can do. It’s about demonstrating the value that the innovation can bring for the end customer.

Jonathan Cook, Head of new Media at Valtech agreed, believing that most people were open to new ideas if there was visible value, but needed these to be couched in familiar terms: 

You don’t have to work hard at persuading clients to take innovative ideas forwards.  If you are able to paint a longer term vision and show your customer which initial small logical steps to take, which are beneficial and which prove your concept as you go, then progress is easy.

Over at TBG Digital, Simon Mansell told us about the company’s innovation fund, and how this willingness to share costs had helped:

Every client is different.  Our Innovation Fund really helps here as we can help clients by paying for some new ideas out of our own profits.

Of course, sharing doesn’t always have to be purely about money. Glen Conybeare and Paul Huggett from Stickyeyes both mentioned the importance of involving clients at every step of the journey: 


It depends on how much you involve them.  If you take them on the journey with you most will be very happy to be involved.


Clients understand that the digital space is ever changing but there are significant benefits from taking measured risks. A client will normally consider it carefully, given transparency of information and an honest assessment of the benefits and risks.

toby-smeetonToby Smeeton (left) is Managing Director at Sunday. He felt that collaboration was especially useful as it fostered the deep understanding that was the key to getting clients on board:

The clients that embrace innovation are ones that understand that the innovation has a decent chance of delivering tangible results. Agencies aren’t employed by clients to spend their money on innovation – innovation is the process to achieving a different, better outcome. 

This was mentioned again and again, with the majority of agencies feeling that a close working relationship was half the battle. Once clients trusted the agency, it became more about the bottom line than any great leap of faith.

William Smyth, Head of Digital OMD UK:

Our clients trust us to make sound, strategic and commercially robust recommendations to them. So I don’t think it’s a question of ‘going along with innovative ideas’ but more of making a case for why trying something new is in the interests of their business. If you can show how doing something innovative will give them genuine competitive advantage then clients are usually embracing.

Nishma Robb, Business Development & Marketing Director at I Spy Marketing

Building relationships with our clients is one of the most important aspects of handling a brand’s needs.  This means that we build a relationship of trust with not only the brand, but the people behind it – if your innovative idea is as brilliant as it should be, then there is never any need to persuade a client to ‘take a chance’.

Indeed, many clients find a reputation for going against the grain and doing something different very attractive. No company wants to be seen as run of the mill, so working with innovative agencies has a unique allure.  

Herbert Dazo is Ad Technology Director (EMEA) at Yahoo! His answer summed this up nicely:

Most clients are focused on the core objectives of what their campaign needs to achieve and they know that at Yahoo! our response to their brief will always push the boundaries of what’s ‘normal’ – they know to expect that from us.  Digital media lends itself to interactive, nimble and effective campaigns – with quick results.  This often means that when they trust us, they work with us as partners to take informed risks with high returns.

Aaron Michie, Interactive Concepts Director at BMF told us that ultimately, it all came down to risk management: 

This varies greatly from business to business and marketer to marketer, but in general it always comes back to risk, and potential return on risk. Our approach is to try and be efficient as possible with the ‘’business as usual’ work so we can hit business and comms objectives, while still keeping some resources aside for trying really new things. When ideas are really big, like Investorville, then a lot of work needs to go into the ROI discussion.

This was alaso a popular view, and most respondents told us that as long as you could back up your ideas with case studies and useful figures, then the majority of businesses are hapy to run with fresh ideas.

Tina Judic, Managing Director at Found (below):

https://assets.econsultancy.com/images/resized/0001/6126/tina-judic-blog-third.jpgIllustrating return on investment and providing sound research and insight into the opportunity are the keys to persuasion. Clients are far more receptive to change and innovative ideas than may be perceived in the market – they’re simply seeking sound reasoning as to why they should put their budget on the line!

Alastair Cole,Head of Creative Services at Essence Digital:

You have to pick your battles. Most businesses are 18 months behind the cutting edge and need to see results from someone else’s campaign. Others analyse the best data available, define a progressive strategy and embrace innovative execution.

The majority of clients face the same challenges as those who choose to foster innovative campaigns internally. They realize that they can’t afford to stagnate if they want to remain relevant in an extremely fast-moving market.

We’ll look more closely at what brands and agencies can do to stay ahead of the curve in a future post, but for now it seems that businesses want to innovative, and only require transparency and solid reasoning from their agencies before parting with their budgets.

As Richard Beattie, VP & GM EMEA for Vitrue succinctly told us:

 “Show me the money” generally works.”

Econsultancy’s 2012 Innovation Awards 2012 take place this Thursday, 23rd February, at the Park Lane Hilton in London. We still have a few last minute places available. Visit our events page if you’d like to join us for a spectacular evening of celebration and entertainment. 

Matt Owen

Published 22 February, 2012 by Matt Owen

Matt Owen was formerly Head of Social at Econsultancy. You can follow him on Twitter or hook up on LinkedIn.

203 more posts from this author

Comments (1)


Murat Mutlu

Most clients don't have the balls to make a decision on a innovative idea. They would rather choose something that's more run-of-the-mill but less likely to make them look foolish if it fails.

If your client isn't engaged with all the new platforms, social networks and technology - why are they going to back a idea they don't understand from a user perspective? I've yet to meet a client that's really into apps, IM, BBM, Instagram or what have you.

They are reactive, they are only interested in a tech and platforms when it's been covered to death in the press or they get notifications from it on Facebook.

"illustrating return on investment and providing sound research and insight into the opportunity are the keys to persuasion"

The problem is trying to explain ROI on something that you have no idea what it could turn into unless you get it out there. It's why stuff never gets made. No one in this post talks about failure and embracing it, you can't innovative without doing that.

If you want to foster a innovative spirit in your agency - dont wait for your client. It's toxic for creatives too.

Wrote a post about this sort of thing here http://www.mobileinc.co.uk/2012/02/just-make-stuff/

Read the comments in my post here http://www.mobileinc.co.uk/2011/08/can-the-next-instagramhipstamatickloutangry-birds-be-born-within-a-agency/

over 4 years ago

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