Emad Tahtouh
Sep 15, 2014

Spikes Asia 2014: New ways of thinking

Innovation can no longer be seen as an afterthought, it should be the focus of the entire campaign team from the outset.

Emad Tahtouh
Emad Tahtouh

Innovation. It’s a word we’re hearing a lot these days. Not just in advertising and marketing, but it every facet of our daily lives. But what exactly does it mean? I believe the term itself has been misunderstood and misused. It seems as if somewhere along the line, innovation has been confused with invention, which in my mind aren’t the same. 

Invention is about creating new products, services or systems based on entirely new ideas. Innovation is about improving on existing ideas. Quite simply, it’s all about making things better. If necessity is the mother of invention, then in my opinion frustration and efficiency are the father and mother of innovation.

As a judge, there are several challenges when judging a piece of work and quite often it is difficult, if not impossible, to compare two pieces of work directly side by side. However a couple of the criteria I’m always looking for are: how has this product, service or campaign been improved upon from previous examples? Has the product or campaign been used to its full potential? How useful is it to the general community, and can it be adapted or improved upon in the future? Another big factor for me, which is more a matter of preference, is how well does it bridge the gap between the digital world and the real world. I believe that the most interesting and successful campaigns are the ones that can use popular digital platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Google Maps, and integrate them into the real world.

We’re at a very exciting and important juncture in our industry. The category is still very new, and for better or worse, how we judge work coming in to this category now, will determine the quality of work we see down the line. Which is why I take the judging process very seriously, and why I have such strong views on how the category should be defined. Innovation should not be synonymous with ‘world-firsts’, ‘game changers’ or overly complicated technical marvels. An innovation should only ever be as complicated as is required to deliver the desired result.

One outstanding example of innovation is British Airways’ recent digital billboard. It was simple, elegant and wondrous. It was technically complex, however that wasn’t the focus of the campaign. The technology was merely a vehicle for the idea, and it really shone through in the execution. Passers-by would look up at the sky and see a plane flying overhead, at the same time they would be looking at a billboard where a child was pointing to the sky and naming the plane and its destination. To the average passer-by, how it worked was a mystery. But it worked, and it was mesmerising. 

Another fantastic piece of work was The Melbourne ‘Remote control tourist’ for Tourism Victoria. This allowed people at home to direct a ‘surrogate tourist’ around Melbourne to various locations, so they could experience the city. Everything was beamed online via a live stream and Twitter feed, along with a beautifully responsive website which tracked the tourists via GPS. The execution was beautiful and responsive, and delivered the idea perfectly.

I think we’re getting closer and closer to the point where innovation is heavily integrated into ‘traditional advertising’. However we’ve still got a bit to go. A few years ago, innovation was seen as an add-on or afterthought; today we’re seeing it being integrated from the beginning and sometimes even becoming the focus of the campaign. We’re starting to see creative teams working side-by-side with technology teams when working on ideas, which is fantastic. 

My hope is that in the future there will be no ‘creative team’ and ‘tech team’ but simply one team that encapsulates both.

Emad Tahtouh is director of applied technology at Finch and president of the Innovation jury at Spikes Asia 2014


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