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Innovation is more than tech

News, 13 May 2016

LONDON: This year's Warc Prize for Innovation awarded campaigns with practical applicability and emotional appeal, rather than only impressive new tech, according to both the prize's judges and its Grand Prix winner.

Winners of the free-to-enter prize – a global showcase for innovative thinking that delivers tangible results – were announced at an event in London earlier this week. Prior to the awards announcement, representatives of the Prize jury, from both agency and client side, offered their own definitions of innovation.

There was a consensus that true marketing innovation went well beyond technological application. Jeremy Basset, director of the Unilever Foundry, the FMCG giant's start-up lab, said: "Innovation is about solving challenges that are much bigger than what the brand would traditionally be focused on.

"I really like Steve Jobs' definition of innovation as 'ideas that ship'. In other words, it's not just about a great idea, but something that can be scaled."

Debbie Weinstein, a director of brand solutions and innovations at Google, and a fellow Warc Prize for Innovation judge, added: "It's about solving old problems in new ways. It's really about addressing fundamental issues – and hopefully the world – that can then live on."

For Alex Altman, managing director at MEC, emotion was key to Prize success. "I had expected that tech would be the anchor for these entries, but it was actually true for about only half of them. Then there were the ones that moved me on an emotional level. It was not just about the rational impact of the campaign – did it sell more, did it change behaviour – there were some that you just said: 'Wow!'"

Fellow judge Mark Boyd, founder of specialist content agency Gravity Road agreed, adding: "Some of the entries that resonated didn't have a lot of tech. Sometimes, innovation is confused with tech and algorithms. There was a real theme towards social good, too."

These themes can be seen in this year's Warc Prize for Innovation Grand Prix winner. Between Us, a campaign for Vodafone from Y&R Team Red in Istanbul created a secret alarm app disguised as a smartphone's torch that helped protect women threatened by domestic violence.

Picking up the Grand Prix, Saul Betmead, Chief Strategy Officer EMEA at Y&R, said that it was an "honour" to win the top award and said of the campaign: "It's something that we're all very proud of both emotionally as well as rationally, so it's just really nice to see some recognition for this idea."

Also speaking on the panel was Karmarama managing director Lawrence Weber, who praised the Prize's commitment to tangible results. "I liked the effectiveness criteria – it meant it wasn't just about the latest thing, they had to prove results," he said.

Basset added: "Tonight was a celebration of some fantastic ideas. We have to think about how we fund different ideas and create a framework for experimentation.

"And that's a very healthy place to be for us as a marketing industry."

Warc subscribers can read all of this year's winning Warc Prize for Innovation case studies, including Grand Prix on the Prize page.

Data sourced from Warc