From the early black and white flickering images by the Lumière brothers to the demanding fans of Game of Thrones, the business of storytelling is about visceral emotions, and "nothing captures emotion and builds connection better than the sight, sound and motion of video," according to Maggie Zhang, Senior Vice President, Video Research & Insights at Dentsu Aegis Network (DAN). The world of video has become increasingly complex, creating innovative breakthroughs for brands to connect and communicate with consumers in brand new ways. This rapid pace of disruption requires ninja-like focus to cut through the ever-expanding labyrinth of technologies and new players on the one hand and the unrelenting appetite for content from discerning audiences on the other.
In addition to her research leadership role, Zhang (pictured at top) heads up the Video Innovation Council (VIC) at DAN, which is on a mission to capture the growing momentum of video innovation and deliver network-wide video thought leadership and operational expertise to clients. For Dentsu and its ten global network agency brands, this gets at the heart of their promise to clients -- innovating the way brands are built to drive sustainable business growth. The ultimate success of the Council comes in three folds -- creating an ecosystem for collaborative innovation, focusing on action and agility and holistically measuring outcomes.
The origins of this approach harken back to the early days when Dentsu founder Hoshiro Mitsunaga tapped into the potential of telegraphy -- the newest and fastest technology available at the time -- and positioned himself as a pioneer in the Japanese news agency industry. Today, it is that same pioneering spirit that is exemplified by Maggie Zhang and her team as they lead the Council agenda of ensuring "smarter, more connected and collaborative" solutions for clients.
Ecosystem for Collaborative Innovation
The Video Innovation Council relies heavily on creating order and structure out of the chaotic barrage of new developments from the tech front (think 5G, AI and machine learning) and separating reality from hype in an industry renowned for being enamored with shiny new objects. By structuring Innovation Councils around 11 focus areas, of which Video is one, Dentsu Aegis Network has created interconnected swim lanes amidst the constant waves of disruption in the technology space. The other focus areas include Mobile, Blockchain, Emerging Tech, Futures, Luxury, Gaming and Social, as well as localized Innovation Councils in SoCal, NorCal and within Carat. Each group is made up of internal change-agents across all the Dentsu Aegis agencies and they all have one thing in common: pioneering and a collaborative spirit to try new things. It is this mindset that defines innovation, "not always a binary disruption from zero to one, but incremental advances that are scalable over time," says Zhang. By leveraging the different agency brand specializations, from Merkle's deep strength in marketing analytics to McGarryBowen's creative prowess to Isobar's ability to harness digital technologies, the Council ecosystem has created a dynamic breeding ground for emerging ideas and diversity of perspectives -- improving the odds that innovation goes beyond rhetoric and actually creates tangible impact in the marketplace.
Action and Agility
One of the impressive characteristics of the Council is how they seamlessly integrate the voice of the clients through highly engaging forums, like the Idea Jam. These are interactive and creative brainstorming sessions where the client shares their pain points and the collective intelligence of all the Council members is set in motion to reframe the challenge, tap into network-wide resources and share novel points of view. There is a bias towards action and agility from uncovering the potential for blockchain to redefine addressable TV campaigns to how AI is being used to power creative optimization. There has even been a deep dive into the intersection of video-audio experiences and exploring the rising prominence of voice-assistant technologies during video viewing. Through both a top-down and bottom-up approach, the agility of the Council has ensured a focus on iterative design-thinking processes, continual proof of concept testing and learning and, most importantly, a data-driven approach to decisioning and action. This brings us to the third key element behind the success of the Council.
Measuring Outcomes Holistically
We have all heard the adage "What gets measured gets done," which is attributed to management expert Peter Drucker. Given our ubiquitous access to data and analytics, this has become the price of entry for any change initiative inside organizations. The DAN Innovation Councils have taken it to the next level. They are committed to measurement across multiple dimensions: effectiveness of the Councils in delivering proven client value, fostering strategic partnerships with media and technology providers and growing competitive advantages for all DAN agencies.
As one of the examples of delivering client value, Zhang shared insights with main media clients during the recent TV Upfront. This resulted from a comprehensive audit across the spectrum of TV/ cross-platform video attribution models, data sources and conversion metrics. It highlighted the "explosive growth" in the data-rich world of TV and video measurement and underscored the importance of Dentsu's Eigyo Approach: "Agency partners acting as brand custodians to help clients mitigate risks and discover new paths forward, where TV and cross-platform video can drive both branding and performance results in this case," according to Zhang.
The Road Ahead
One of the biggest benefits of the Video Innovation Council is their ability to leapfrog into the future and guide clients before the innovation becomes mainstream -- exploring the next frontier and bringing it back to the present.
By simplifying and synthesizing the perplexing pace of digital innovations, the Council has created a unique playing field that allows interconnectivity, creativity and brand-centricity to thrive -- the very ingredients that clients need to grow and excel in our hyper-connected digital world.
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