By Published on .

Of all his great achievements, perhaps Bill Bernbach's most enduring contribution was the endorsement of the art director and copywriter "team" way of creating advertising. No longer would a copywriter slip a headline and copy under an art director's door with an order for a layout, like ordering a pizza. Working as a team, each gave up individual control to create better ideas. The team concept forever changed the way agencies solve problems.

What if this concept spread beyond the creative department? And if two heads are better than one, how about 10 or 20 or 50? What if you regularly brought together a broad group of people, including creative teams, planners, account people and clients, to focus on

solving a business problem or identifying ways to transform a brand or enterprise? What if you use the Internet to multiply this theory by 1,000 or 10,000 or 50,000? Consider it: focusing an almost unlimited network of thinkers on a problem, bringing ideas from all over the globe in a new, unprecedented level of collaboration.

Scary, huh?

Not if you embrace the potential power of open-source innovation.

Fact is, open-source innovation will be the next sea change for marketers, and it's one that is already in motion. It's a much more democratic approach to finding new ideas that encourage collaboration and partnerships. It's a recognition that no company can afford to rely solely on its own internal R&D resources or those of its outside suppliers for new ideas. It's a world where multidisciplinary teams, departments, offices-even, in some cases, competitors-will be working together and sharing in the rewards.

In an open-source world, it's not about who comes up with the idea, it's about finding, owning and bringing the idea to life. Advertising agencies can lead this new way of working.

Within the walls of an agency is the deepest full-time reservoir of marketing, business and creative talent of any company, in any industry. Multiply that by a global network's offices or the multidisciplinary resources of a holding company, and you have potentially the most powerful open-source innovation resource in the world. You just have to get your agency to institutionalize a new way of working with and sourcing ideas.

This must be mandated from the top. Then you have to set up tangible ways to activate it. These can include a new process that forces creative collaboration across all departments and disciplines, a technological solution that facilitates this globally and/or identifies a senior individual who has both the skill set and respect within the organization to function successfully as the open-source "change agent."

The future of every enterprise will be determined by its ability to monetize new ideas. And while an agency's primary deliverable will continue to be world-class communications, it cannot afford to sit on the sidelines in terms of innovation.

Marketers also need to make a shift in mind-set, allowing their agencies to occupy a broader innovation role as a true stakeholder in the brand, with the ability to profit in new ways from this expanded contribution.

As we learned from author Thomas Friedman, the world is flat. New-product life cycles are getting shorter and anyone with a letter of credit is able to source a new product from China. So there has never been more urgency for finding what's new. That's why companies that used to control innovation internally have opened the windows and developed new ways to maintain leadership.

A.G. Lafley, CEO of Procter &Gamble, has gone on record saying, "50% of all innovation will come from outside our walls." He's not alone. Staples runs an annual Invention Quest, soliciting new ideas from customers. Other companies have set up internal networks to find applications for new ideas from around the world.

The pressure to monetize new ideas has never been greater. So what CMO wouldn't want his or her agency to activate its resources in a broader way? After all, who knows the brand and consumer better, and who has a greater vested interest in long-term business success?

In an increasingly open-source world, where supplier, manufacturer and retailer relationships are in a state of constant change, it would be naive to assume that the marketer/agency relationship will remain the same. This can be a huge opportunity for both sides unless one of them holds on to the past with white knuckles.
Most Popular
In this article: