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Published on

October 13, 2022


digital, innovation, marketing, trends

Season 2, Episode 5: Redefining Innovation

On this episode of Outsmart, hosts Rex and Nicole explore what it means to innovate creatively with TEAM LEWIS Global Head of Innovation, Andy Martinus.

In the episode we dive into:

  • Why innovation doesn’t always mean looking at the next shiny thing
  • The ongoing shift from Web 2 to Web 3
  • Brands who are getting innovation right, and who has gotten it wrong


Nicole: Welcome everyone, to another episode of the Outsmart podcast. I’m Nicole Allen, joined by my cohost, Rex Petrill. And today we are very excited to have Andy Martinus on the line with us, our Head of Innovation out of the TEAM LEWIS UK office. Andy, welcome to Outsmart.

Andy: Thank you guys for having me. I’ve been hoping to get an invite and you guys have reached the bottom of the barrel and I’m here.

Nicole: Pretty much. Yeah, that’s exactly where we’re at. So, Andy, Head of Innovation, that’s a hefty title. Innovation means a lot of things to a lot of different people. What do we mean when we talk about innovation?

Andy: Yeah, I feel like depending on who I talk to is a different kind of thing. The role that I kind of took on and started with was just trying to challenge how we think about the problems that clients have. So quite often it was looking at, is there a new platform we should be thinking about? Is there a way we could use a new platform differently? We’re quite fortunate in terms of the team that we have and the skills that we have. So, we’ve got web developers, we’ve got animators, we’ve got designers. And part of my role is working out how we can look at the challenges we have and then apply technology and creativity and see how they can work together. But it’s also giving a chance to explore things like virtual reality, augmented reality, even things like video chat. All of those things. Like, some of the innovative things we were looking at two, three years ago were how we could use chat bots as more than just being like, a customer service tool. Can we actually use it as a demand generation tool? Can we use it as a way of kind of driving people to the right part of your site and experimenting with how people engage with your website. But I mean, I talk about innovation with the team internally quite often and innovation is not always about the next shiny thing. It’s how we can kind of improve what we’re doing. Is there ways that we can innovate through being more efficient? Like, is there a way that we could get better at how we present information in a more innovative way? It doesn’t always have to be, oh, let’s go and get an Oculus headset. That’s innovation, right? That’s a big thing and people always think like that. But innovation is often the way that our clients and different people can just tell their stories in different ways. So, I think it’s kind of all encapsulating, but I find it super exciting. You guys will shut me up in a minute, but I could talk about innovation forever.

Rex: Well, let’s keep it going because I think we have a platform here that dozens of people are listening to, and I think we’d love to start off with a second easy question of the day about the Metaverse. You’ve talked about AR, VR, the Metaverse and Zuckerberg’s billion-dollar investment in this technology over the next several decades, likely. What is the Metaverse and why should we as marketers care about it?

Andy: I guess it depends if Zuck’s listening what the answer to that question is. But the original term, right, comes from a book that was written, a kind of science fiction book written in the 1990s and it’s all about this idea of creating virtual versions of ourselves and then how that portrays itself and the kind of iterative examples of the Metaverse that we think of now are like what Zuckerberg is trying to build. So, this idea that we’re all wearing virtual reality headsets and we’re in a virtual world and that’s our future life. I kind of liken it to like if Demolition Man was a video game. That’s kind of what it feels like for anyone that’s not too young to not know what Demolition Man is.

Rex: So, you’re saying that we’re still going to have Taco Bell in the future? That’s key.

Andy: 100%. Which is like the other thing with the Metaverse. There’s kind of three strands to it. One of it is kind of virtual reality. There’s an augmented reality to it and there’s also a kind of online world, right? So, some examples of the Metaverse are things like Roblox or Minecraft because you are portraying it a version of yourself in a game environment where you can build and interact. Right? So, for example, there was that famous campaign that I think Burger King or Wendy’s did where they basically joined Minecraft and then went in and smashed up all of the refrigerators or freezers in any of the restaurants, they went into to talk about the fact that at Wendy’s all of their meat is fresh, they don’t freeze the meat, right, in the beef patties. So that’s like an example of it. We’re seeing lots of people are using Roblox as a platform and doing collaborations with it. Nike have done things with it, but it’s like people are positioning it like this futuristic thing that we’re all going to live there and work in it and it’s just not realistic right now. But it is a super exciting and interesting space and kind of platform, if you like and channel that people are exploring. I mean, I don’t think there is one Metaverse which I think is kind of what Meta tried to do. You have talked about advertising and things of different some of the previous podcasts. But one of the big things, the Metaverse sits in this realm of Web 3 and the move from Web 2 to Web 3; Web 2 effectively in a short way of saying it is owned by Google, Facebook, Amazon. The big players control data and we don’t really decide how they use our data. The idea with Web 3 is we have more control over our own data. And if Meta own the Metaverse, it’s just an evolution of them still controlling what we can and can’t see and how we interact with it, which is one of the reasons I personally think they had a massive play into we are Meta, we own the Metaverse. But it feels a bit like they’re just like the middle-aged startups that are trying to build in that space versus the younger, more exciting guys that are doing this cool stuff. I’m sure you guys saw the memes and everything that was online was it a year and a billion in development and they managed to make Zuckerberg look like an animated character from like ‘97 or something like that, right?

Rex: Yeah, they were getting pretty roasted for that rollout.

Andy: And I read a really cool analogy where they were like because to the generation trying to build this future, Facebook isn’t as cool. They think they can build it themselves. And one of the whole ideas within the Metaverse and Web 3 and decentralization is that you can build your own experience, right? So, there are platforms like Decentral Land, which I often take clients on demos and do tours of, that’s just like a virtual world where if I buy a plot of land, I can build whatever I want in it. Whether it’s me stood there, whether it’s me playing like Netflix, just the great is it The Gray Man, the film that has recently launched on Netflix.

Nicole: Yeah.

Andy: I think she built the maze from the film in the central land as a way of showing how you can interact with it. And I think we’re so nascent and so early into what people are trying to do. But we’ve now seen companies introducing Chief Metaverse Officers and things like that. And I’m like there’s a first mover advantage to some extent but I just think for now, anyone I talk to, I’m like, experience it, see what you think. It’s so early on, it’s an exciting and interesting space. But I think right now it’s so like in the UK, we say, so marmite like a brand that you either love or you hate. You’re either all in and you want to find out more or you’re like, that stupid. But I kind of feel that’s how people were with the Internet.

Rex: Yeah, I mean, it’s like a blank slate that you can make of it what you will. And I think that’s scary for some people and really exciting for others. So, I think that’s really great advice to just and I know that those are the conversations that you’ve had with our clients, is just here it is, this is what people are doing. This is what you can do. Now let’s come up with an idea of how best to execute that that fits your business outcomes, that fits your goals, rather than try to play within someone else’s sandbox and copy what anybody else is doing.

Andy: And I mean, some clients will come and say, we want to build a Metaverse or another kind of in the same space. Right? We want an NFT project. And you’re like, the popularity of NFT’s is still there, but people are still trying to figure out how you use it. Is it digital art, how can you make a use case for it? I’ve seen some amazing examples of how people are using it. Like, there’s a charity in the UK which is called Movember, and every year it’s this idea that you basically don’t shave, and you grow your mustache and it’s for cancer. Right?

Nicole: We have the same.

Andy: They launched an NFT project called it their NFT, but Non-Fungible Testicles and you buy them and then if you don’t go back and log in, it then kind of deteriorates. So, every time you logged in, if you weren’t checking up a bit like a Tamagotchi style thing, it was trying to show the impact of not checking and doing that. Right. And there’s been some super interesting ways of exploring it. And the whole Bored Ape Yacht Club thing is mind blowing how those guys are now billionaires. And you can take an NFT, then create a movie out of it and you can put it on burger joints and things like that. But I think we’re past the phase of let’s build a Metaverse for everyone or let’s build an NFT project. Now people are trying to see how the best way to do that is. Like the best example I think the most successful brand in the NFT space has been Nike, right? And instead of trying to launch their own one or buying an NFT like Adidas did, Nike bought the most advanced and coolest company creating things, RFTK, I think it’s studios, and then basically adapted what they were already doing and made a merchandise line out of it, which just made hundreds of millions. But again, for me, what’s super interesting is what’s possible, and are these things just going to be fads and how can you implement them? Because it’s the same. Again, when we talk about, like, digital advertising, you look at Instagram stories or Facebook stories or TikTok ads. If they’re not done well or for the right reason, for the right channel to the right audience, they don’t have an impact. And I think it’s exactly the same when you think about the Metaverse, NFT’s any of these things. Right now, it is mainstream, but it’s not fully mainstream, and it’s understanding what the applications could be.

Nicole: Yeah. Everyone’s still figuring out how to use it and how to make sense of it. I got to be honest with the Metaverse. I have a hard time. How is it different from Second Life, which is Second Life even really a thing anymore? Or Sims or something like that?

Andy: And the only thing, I think there’s a difference. I think there are two factors that make it that it could be more mainstream. One, I think COVID has meant that we’re so used to virtual meetings and working virtually, so I think there is now a greater level of comfort of not being physically with other people, which is part of those games and the way you play them. And the second thing is the generation of kids and people that are now in the early years of their career that have grown up in virtual worlds, whether it started with Farmville, whether they’ve then moved on to Minecraft, whether they’ve moved onto Roblox. They’re so used to that as being their way of kind of hanging out friends for obviously, Fortnite has been massive the last five, six years. Right, true. Well, it’s a bit alien because we didn’t grow up in that environment, but I think there’s a whole generation that are now in the working world where they see that, like, normal, cool. I don’t see it’s weird, whereas a lot of older generations are like, why would I want to do that?

Nicole: Right. Well and seeing if and how those real-world applications come to life, because I think that is like Second Life was all about a second life and an actual virtual reality that was completely separated from your own. Right. And now with the Metaverse, it’s more about trying to bridge the gap between virtual and actual. And brands are trying to figure out how to monetize, how to advertise and how to kind of leverage these platforms to bring the virtual into the or sorry, bring the actual into the virtual. And that will be if that code is cracked, that may be where the adoption really does take off and it does become more mainstream.

Andy: Right, yeah. And I think one of the challenges at the moment, there’s a whole discussion around open versus closed Metaverse. So, Facebook or Meta’s version will be a closed Metaverse. In the same way, if you think about content historically, when you publish it on Facebook, if you linked out, it would maybe be downgraded in the algorithm because they wanted to keep you within Facebook, right? Or if you’re doing adverts, it’s a similar model. And within the Metaverse that Facebook are building, they want you to stay in their world. So, if you build your avatar and your look and feel in Facebook’s world, you can’t take the same look and feel directly into another thing, or you can’t get a new skin in Roblox and take it with you. Whereas the idea with an open Metaverse where they’re trying to move to is this idea that actually you just have a virtual version of yourself, a digital twin, if you like, of yourself. We talk about digital twins of products all the time. It’s like creating a digital version of yourself that you can then take anywhere with you if you want to. Part of this is all about if you want to, right? But I think it’s going to be super fascinating to see how people interact with it. We’re so far away. One of the questions they asked Zuckerberg when he launched Meta and did the whole kind of pretty amazing video that they put together was, when are we going to get the headsets? So, they’re like a set of like, eyeglasses. And the technology doesn’t really exist. You need to have the receiver; you have to have an internet connection. All of these different elements, they’re just not small enough to be able to do that yet. So, I think it’s going to be really interesting what Apple are doing in the space. Facebook are actively, or Meta are trying to do more in that space. And people’s comfort levels, at the moment, there’s still so many people, if you’re doing it in VR that just feel sick and just feels disorientating and you’re not comfortable doing it right. And that is going to be a big barrier to people wanting to engage with it. Which is why I think there’s a lot more interesting space, I think, for brands is in terms of mixed reality and some of the activations you can do where you’re bringing digital and physical together. Whether it’s through some of the billboards you see in Times Square where you see things coming at you or whether you can visualize your brand in a space. Like, we work with a number of clients that do like consumer electronic products. If I’ve got a way of using an app and showing how that might look in my home, then it makes me feel a bit more oh, I can see how that works as opposed to trying to visualize it in your mind. So, I think there’s a lot more growth in that. I mean, there’s been some amazing versions there’s a version I saw Carolina Panthers did last year where the actual panther came out the screen and ran across the field. As you watched it on a screen, it looked absolutely incredible to see how it all works.

Rex: Yeah, the AR applications seem to be immense and, you know, we’ve seen like, consumer brands jump on it because it’s a natural fit of like, how are these sunglasses going to look on my face? Or what does this dress are going to look like in my room? Or even when we’re going through, you’re going through, I would like to rent a new apartment or look at buying a new house and boom, there’s a fully 3D virtualized tour that is not as janky as like, turn this wall and then turn this wall. It’s like, no, you can actually just basically walk through the entire property and actually get a sense for it instead of flat photos. So, it’s pretty incredible.

Andy: And I think that, like we’ve seen with some examples, obviously one thing that we used to support a number of our clients with was in events. That was their kind of field marketing, the way that they got people in front of you, selling the room, all of that. And it works so well. But we’re now at that point where brands are kind of saying, can we justify the investment of sending 50 people to an event or the cost of a stand? All of those different things. So, they are now looking at how can we make them more virtual and more engaging? So, can you take a huge investment you’ve made and give it a longer shelf life than the five days of that event? Right. We’re now seeing everyone wanting to do virtual events. So, all of our clients, and we did them, were like, you would do a summit where you invite everyone to join you on a zoom call with 50-100 people. We now want the physical element, but we want to have the option of people that don’t want to travel. So, the kind of blurring of how that works and having a virtual office almost is something I think we’re going to see a bit more of because we all work remote to a certain degree, right? The three of us are in three completely different locations, but we talk every single day and we’re working collaboratively, and I think it’s going to be interesting to see what the event industry looks like. Do we still move towards a much more virtual version of it, or people really don’t want virtual, and they want to meet people and physically see them? I think AR is a nice bridge to be able to see what’s possible.

Rex: I think that’s the key is in any of these instances, be the Metaverse, be it AR, be it VR, whatever we want to talk about is always keeping the end consumer in mind and what their experiences and what they want to do. And I think, Andy, one thing that you’ve talked about is that we’re still on the Metaverse topic and we’ll move off of it very shortly, but right now it’s just another channel that for marketers to consider, for companies to consider where users may be, and it may be an opportune time to engage with content. So, I think it’s just keeping that always at the forefront, just like you would for a PR campaign or applying a chat bot to your website. It’s all about the user experience and how they’re going to interact with what you’re putting out there.

Andy: Absolutely. Ultimately, our jobs are to try and both attract attention and then capture attention. Right. And part of the move to the Metaverse that’s kind of where the audience is to some extent. And if that’s where the audience is going to be, how can we be in the mix for them to show interest in us? In the same way that if we’d have been sat here 10-15, maybe less than ten years ago, maybe a bit more, we wouldn’t have been talking about running Facebook ads for, like, big enterprise businesses. No, we’d be like, that’s where I talk about what I had for lunch. That’s where I hang out my friends and I catch up with, like, I don’t know, school friends or whatever. That’s not where I learn about how my business could be transformed. Right. Or how to do that. Whereas now, if you don’t have that in the mix, you kind of saying, why not? It’s one of the biggest databases that’s going to have you’re going to learn a lot from the audience there and where the attention is. It’s why now? TikTok’s a perfect example where brands are trying to find out how they can do something in that space, and you either get an earlier kind of mover advantage of being one of the first to do it, or you figure out a way of almost hacking it to make it more applicable and more interesting to what you’re trying to do. There’s someone on TikTok that’s huge and all she does is share Excel cheats. That blows my mind, but it’s incredible. I could watch it all day.

Rex: Please don’t. There is an expectation, though, this is a little bit off topic. But we’ve all seen some of the recent Netflix roll out of their ad platform and it’s been rocky, to say the least in that they have some really big expectations of brands to spend big dollars. And then they’re like, sorry, here’s basically no targeting and there’s basically no reporting and you can’t verify that your ads are serving and things like that. So, like, hey, welcome to ads circa 2000. This is the Internet. It’s going to be great, but just you’re going to have to trust us. And I think there’s still elements of that. And so, in any new technology, in any new channel, I think that the brands have smartly come with expectations being like, this is not acceptable. Like, we need to know what’s going on. And if I’m going to make an investment, like, there needs to be a return, that I’m going to learn something or I’m going to actually be able to reach somewhat of my target audience. So, I think there’s always going to be that mix and that balance of understanding should I be on a channel first, or is it more valuable for me to wait, see others succeed, fail, what works, what doesn’t, what the audience is doing, and then get onto that second wave so you can be most efficient. And it’s an easy answer for some brands because they have all the money in the world and then others, you want to be more challenger and you want to be efficient. And so maybe not riding that first wave is your best bet to catch the second swell, third swell type thing.

Nicole: But I do think there’s something in being a Challenger where maybe you don’t have all the dollars, but maybe that cost barrier to entry is lower initially right, for some of these platforms, or get there organically because you can be more nimble than your larger competitors. Right.

Rex: Yeah, great point.

Nicole: But really, at the end of the day, though, it’s really just is your audience there, like challenger or not large enterprise tech company or sunglass company? Like, where the **** is your audience? And if they’re not on that platform and they’re not early adopters of that technology, then, yeah, take a seat and watch what happens and watch it play out and wait for the data and the audience to be there, right.

Andy: 100%. And I think yeah, I also think that you get to a point where everyone’s trying to get that attention arbitrage in that one spot right, and hoping the audience is there. And I think the changes we’ve seen with iOS 14 last year, where you actually opt-in now to give your data, like, your targeting has gone from, all right, I can target 10,000 people in California that are male, and they’re this age. Now, to reach that number, you actually have to probably target 50,000 because you can’t have that level of detail that you used to be able to have. And I think that the differentiator becomes, can you be more innovative in how you approach what you’re doing? Can you be much more it all kind of arts back to storytelling and how creative you can tell your story or catch people’s attention. I remember being at a Facebook thing years ago, and they said that for every one spot you’re advertising, there’s between like, 100 to 1,000 companies and this was like eight years ago for that one spot in your Instagram feed and the multiples on that must be incredible right now. The idea of creating thumb-stopping content because we do everything on our cell phones, right, is just you need something that’s going to stand out. And whether that’s being able to do something like use augmented reality to have a product come out at you, whether that’s to kind of adapt and alter the environment. I think that the most innovative brands, if they don’t have the well-known brand equity, like big, big brands that have got huge equity, they get your attention because you expect something from them or because you just know of them, right? The ones that I find most interesting are the brands you’ve never heard of, and something just stops you in your tracks because they’ve done something different or they’ve been they kind of hack at it. Like another thing that’s super interesting that has been met with a mixture of fear, terror and hatred is DALL·E 2. I don’t know how familiar anyone is with that, but it’s basically a new AI platform. So, there’s one called Mid Journey, there’s one called Imagine, which is by Google, and then there’s this thing called DALL·E 2 which is by Open AI. So, this is basically artificial intelligence that you can put one example of it is you can put a prompt into it, and it will create a painting or an image from scratch based on your prompt. So, I could say in the style of Salvador Dalí, a man and woman by the ocean holding a cat, and it will, within ten to 15 seconds, create a pretty realistic image. And then the immediate question then is, well, what does this mean for creatives? We’re all screwed. We’re just going to use AI. And it’s not like that, right? It’s just not like that. Because it’s like anything, if you don’t know how to use it, it’s going to look really bad. And I think that we often see these and there’s been some amazing already, some examples of how brands have used that, and it’s just gone through beta testing. But I think it’s just like we don’t see huge shifts in what’s possible. Right. If you look at the innovations, some innovations are not miles ahead of where they were ten years ago. It’s how you apply them. Little things like the basic way that I’m holding it up by you guys can see it, but the way we use our cell phones, right, that’s not changed. We’ve just got new apps or new things in terms of once they introduce the ability to watch videos, to do video calling, there’s not been a dramatic innovation in the hardware. There’s been a lot in the software, and things have exponentially improved, but there’s nothing that’s changed dramatically. And I think it’s the same in a lot of the platforms that we look at. They’re just different ways of capturing attention. And it’s whether or not is our attention span getting less and less. I think TikTok shown that, right? And I think often we think of innovation as being this big, huge, wow, we’re going to change the world with something massive. I mean, there’s not that many new things that we can create that are truly, truly innovative. It’s how we apply the technology to either tell a story or to augment an experience. And I think that’s massive. That’s the challenge that we look at every day with clients is how can we augment what you’re trying to do, either to make you more famous or to kind of create more awareness or opportunity for you to tell your stories of people that are closer to you in your kind of audience that you want to get in front of? I think that’s like, such a big thing. And that’s how I always try and approach what challenges we look at from a client. What is it you want to do most? And how can we then leverage either a new technology or an existing technology in a different way to be able to tell that story? If any agency or anyone comes to you and says, you have to do this before knowing what your challenge is, it’s just not going to work. Right? There’s no cookie cutter product that works for everyone in terms of trying to be innovative. Right. It just doesn’t work. Like, if you look at ad platforms, there’s no cheat code. There’s a way you do it, right? If you think about to be superficial on Facebook, there is a process and a way that you run ads, the cheat code is in the creative or in the way that you serve it or the learning of it. No one else is getting a different view than you are in the platform. Right. And it’s how you then learn to use it and adapt it. That’s where I think, always going to be a differential. And I think going back to the kind of augment the artificial intelligence with art and things like that, it’s how you use it. It’s not what it can do, and it’s scary when you see it. It’s incredible, but it’s more how you can use the technology

Rex: Well Nicole, we have a lot to learn. I think that’s the important part.

Nicole: And Andy, you’re talking to one of the latest technology adopters in me. It’s been a really interesting conversation.

Andy: From my point, this is what I could talk for hours and hours, right. Because part of what I like, the thing I enjoy most about having an innovation role is just exploring things and I’m trying to understand them and see if there’s a use case for them and realizing that a lot of it there won’t be. But for some of it, we’re just unearthing what we can try and do and how we can challenge things and asking questions of what’s possible. And I think in every room you go in, there’s different levels. I used to run training sessions internally, and I would kind of say every one of us have a different experience online, right? The three of us, we will even use our phone differently, I guarantee it. Or the way we go online, how we search for things. We will have similar traits based on our location, age, and things like that. But how we experience it is totally personal and you can’t expect there to be like a cookie cut way of doing everything right?

Nicole: Yeah, well, I love that approach to innovation. It’s not the big shiny thing and you don’t have to be on every new big shiny platform. It’s just understanding what’s possible and what’s out there and then it’s what you do with it. And that for some brands that might mean, you know, getting on, BeReal and having super low code really personal, just shot on your iPhone advertising, right? Because that’s what your audience wants to see. And for others, it’s going to mean building out big Metaverse applications and having huge conferences that are actually in the Metaverse. But it just kind of depends on what the challenges and we are trying to reach. So, I like that because often to me, again, as a very late technology adopter and someone who probably uses like 10% of what the iPhone is capable of doing, this makes innovation feel much more approachable and less scary.

Andy: I couldn’t summed up any better. I think that’s it, right? A lot of conversations about Metaverse now are like we need to do it, it’s become a new marketing stunt to build one or to say you’ve got one and it’s like, what are you going to use it for? Because if you build the Metaverse space, is this just not another version of your website that’s more immersive? And then if you don’t get anyone to it, what’s the point in building it? So, it’s part of where does it fit in the bigger picture? And I think that’s the case with a lot of things, right? We can do them, and they are great, and we can take the most advanced technology, but like you said, if you don’t use it and don’t apply it in the right way, you might not get the chance to do it again because the budgets might not exist if you don’t show the value in it.

Rex: Or the audience may quit on you because they didn’t like their first experience. So, I think there’s a lot to take away there.


Rex: Andy, thank you so much for the time. I know we could talk about this for hours, but I really do appreciate you coming on and educating us about all things innovation, metaverse, AR, et cetera.

Andy: No problem. Thank you for letting me talk and listening. I probably bored you all now, so I appreciate your time.

Nicole: Not at all.

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