Who owns what when it comes to innovation?


Cinder, winner of last year’s Innovation Lions

I’m coming to this debate late (almost by a year), but I can’t see it going away anytime soon. Since the rise and rise of content marketing, agencies often find themselves in the position of content creators. So far, so traditional – to a degree. But what happens when the agency creates apps, or the increasingly complicated whistles and bells that make up innovative marketing?

When innovation leads to real assets

An article by McCann Global Chief Digital Officer Mike Parker in AdAge last year already raised this question. He was on the jury for the Innovation Lions:

“From the idea of building a camera into a football to help fans feel closer to the game to creating a virtual make-up testing booth out of a bathroom mirror to the team in Ecuador who came up with technology to allow ambulances to project a signal that interrupts peoples’ car radios to warn them to pull over as the ambulance approaches, all the work was an example of agencies essentially inventing products and building prototypes of their ideas. The whole idea of agencies becoming “makers of things” for clients was really on display. Interestingly, in pretty much every case where the jury asked about ownership of the IP, the client owned the concept. So you have these agencies inventing these amazing, groundbreaking things and not having any stake in the value…”

Cannes Lions advertising festival 2013In previous ages, a client would accept all the costs and research involved in ad and marketing creation. But I can see agencies  offering to develop increasingly sophisticated apps and services that have a life far beyond the traditional advertising environment.

How do we manage this new ecosystem? Are both parties fully aware of the implications? Who owns what  – notably the metadata? What happens if they fall out? Could an app continue to be exploited, for example, if a client stops paying for the management? If the parties go for some sort of split of intellectual property, who is responsible for the marketing and development? How are revenues split? What happens if someone has a great idea for monetisation, but the parties don’t agree on how much each should invest in it to enable this?

Although the advertising business can be very dog-eat-dog, with agencies withholding work until payment, or clients taking campaign ideas from one agency to another, this is a whole new ball game.

It would be interesting to have different people’s viewpoints on this.

Submission for this year’s Innovations Lions are open until March 28.

One Comment

on “Who owns what when it comes to innovation?
One Comment on “Who owns what when it comes to innovation?
  1. Excellent article. Excellent questions. As the traditional communications business model shatters and atomises, new molecular structures are taking shape to fill the client-agency relationship vacuum. Where does a client’s business begin and where does the agencies role end? New technologies have sandblasted away the old paradigm of ‘gatekeepers’, where the brand, product and services narrative was strictly controlled by an elite, segregated few. Everybody is now a co-creator of a business entity: there is no longer a distinction between company employes, 3rd party communications specialists, customers and consumers.There is no marketing one-way traffic systems anymore – more a spaghetti junction of interdependent relationships. New technologies have also dissolved the notion of barriers between a brand image, product innovation and sundry follow up services – it is all now one homogeneous blob. The problem is, the soft science of business relationships and expectations; who owns what, and how and who gets rewarded for services rendered, have not kept pace with this unprecedented metamorphosis in the hardware domain. Traditional client/agency relationships were based on an ‘old boy network’ where trust was allowed to build based on mutual understanding of each other’s responsibility in a simplistic marketing model – strategy (USP, Single-Minded Proposition) creative (TV, Print, Outdoor, Radio), media buy ( 5 or 6 channels). Everyone knew were they stood, and more importantly, everybody knew how everyone was to be financially rewarded in this linear arrangement.

    Today nothing is linear – ‘marketing’ resembles a ball of string where business relationships can unravel because trust is dependent of clearly defined beginnings and endings. The emerging digital culture will be mishmash of undulating, constantly changing, amorphous technologies that marketing must embrace – but formulating ‘fixed’ financial contracts in this business environment, will be as easy as nailing jelly to the wall.
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