Innovation? Yes Please!

Posted on January 31st, 2012 by True Media

I recently took my kids to a small concert to hear some children’s music from a national artist. Funny thing was it got me thinking about followers vs. leaders. As I was sitting there with my wife and three kids listening to the music it dawned on me, leading and following truly start at an early age and continue into adulthood.
The musician pointed to a few kids in the audience and asked them to come up on stage for a song. It wasn’t long until 15 kids were on stage dancing around. As the concert went on, one kid dancing in the aisle turned into 30 kids dancing in the aisle. Then three kids started spinning in circles, then five more, then eight more.  A few wanted to climb the stairs onto the stage, then 10 more. One kid decided to sit on the edge of the stage and wave to his parents over and over. This was followed by five more trying to pull themselves up on stage.
While all this was in good fun and the kids were having a great time which is what it was all about, it opened my eyes to the leader vs. follower scenario. It starts early and continues through life and more importantly into the business world, specifically the advertising industry.
Far too often someone will have a great idea then five other companies will put their twist on it to much lesser fan fare. Dairy Queen did their best to copy Old Spice (, so did Edge Shaving Gel ( Both companies and their agencies came out looking very unoriginal. The old adage of plagiarism is the sincerest form of flattery just equates to, I don’t have any original ideas.
It was Steve Jobs who once said, “Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.”  I couldn’t agree with this more. We in the advertising industry owe it to our clients to come up with unique ideas based on solid research, experience, team brainstorming and a little gut instincts to name a few.
We need to continue to push the boundaries of our industry and our clients alike. If we just give the same ideas year over year in a new package, why would a client keep you around?  Why would your agency keep you around? Better yet, how would our industry move forward? I think far too often, in the back of our minds we are worried about failure. It was Richard Nixon who said, “If an individual wants to be a leader and isn’t controversial, that means he never stood for anything.” While that might be a little extreme it still holds some truth. I would suggest that if a business wants to be a leader and doesn’t innovate; their competition will soon be looking at them in the rearview mirror.
Yes I know what you’re thinking, we don’t have the budget to explore the unknown, I have a sales goal to hit, how will we measure the ROI, if it fails I’ll be looking for a new job, etc. etc. I get it, I truly do, but what is your competitor working on? Better yet, what are you doing to stay in front of your competitor? Or pass them?
I’ve worked on everything from 5 figure budgets to 9 figure budgets and I believe there is room to innovate on any level. Remember, not everything you do needs to be out of the box, off the charts, or hit viral video stardom. Pick your opportunities and commit.
I’ll leave you with one final quote from Steve Jobs who said, “Sometimes when you innovate, you make mistakes. It is best to admit them quickly, and get on with improving your other innovations.