NEW YORK: Many advertising agencies are beginning to develop their own intellectual property, as a means of testing new techniques, generating revenues and creating bespoke tools for clients.
Horizon Media, an independent network with offices in locations including New York, London, San Diego and Amsterdam, has launched a sub-unit, New Horizons, to financially back young enterprises.
One firm which has attracted investment from New Horizons is Frederique's Choice, an online florist based in the Netherlands, boasting a "high-end" and "fashionable" positioning.
Alongside taking a meaningful share in Frederique's Choice - founded by model Frederique van der Wal - Horizon will be responsible for its marketing activity.
"I'm an entrepreneur, and the entrepreneur in me is always thinking about how to use the assets of the company," Bill Koenigsberg, Horizon's president and chief executive, told the New York Times.
As was the case with Frederique's Choice, New Horizons is to handle media duties for any organisation receiving official support, and Koenigsberg suggested this will strengthen the agency's overall capabilities.
"It doesn't take our eye off the ball," he said. "If anything, it makes us smarter."
Last year, Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners established a division, operating under the title Spies and Assassins, charged with delivering in-house offerings that can be promoted straight to shoppers.
"In a time of start-up communities and venture capital buzz, it gives us a chance to walk the walk," said Edward Brojerdi, co-chief creative officer at Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners.
"[We can] find out what our creative output is worth out on the street, outside the traditional agency model."
The company's Twit Hit free smartphone app, enabling users to automatically follow someone else on Twitter, has secured 50,000 downloads thus far.
Kirshenbaum Bond Senecal & Partners is currently in the process of finalising a game for iPad, Monster Maker, to be priced at $3.99, and potentially yielding extensions into areas such as toys and stickers.
A puzzle game and an iPad application for agency executives are also in the works at present, and should both command a fee upon release.
"This allows us to get learnings on research-and-development and monetization," said Brojerdi.
Elsewhere, McKinney adapted the sort of approach pioneered by online giant Google, which famously empowers engineers to dedicate one day per week to whatever projects they choose.
The McKinney Ten Percent idea let staff pursue individual initiatives in a similar way, resulting in the unveiling of Crows Nest.
Refreshed every 15 minutes, this platform draws together the top posts made on Twitter by 250 advertising, design and technology leaders.
"It's an itch that needed to be scratched," argued Jim Russell, partner and director for digital strategy at McKinney.
"If there's not an entrepreneurial spirit, an understanding that employees need to play and experiment, it becomes a very static environment."
CenturyLink Business, part of communications group CenturyLink, has modified this tool to provide the latest insights for customers in the information technology sector.
"I think it's a revolution," Cindy Humphrey, vice president for product and marketing at CenturyLink Business said. "[McKinney] is looking beyond me as a client and into my client base and what they need."
Data sourced from New York Times; additional content by Warc staff