W: Tom, I understand When Havas Media North America hired you early this year to be head of strategy and innovation, it did not include the words "future" of "futurist" in your title, but a large part of your role is understanding where the near and not-so-distant futures of media can be applied and accelerated in ways that give Havas and its clients a competitive advantage.
W: So, what exactly is your role at Havas?
M: Well, I'm very lucky in that I get paid to think! My role is about understanding the changes in behavior, technology and media, and then to use that information to inspire new thinking and new ideas, and then to bring them to life. It could be anything from what the Internet of things means for our clients, to how mobile coupons could develop. The key is making something from it.
W: What areas of business do you think require the most focus on innovation right now?
M: I think we need to innovate in two very broad areas. First, we need to start working around people and not our own interests or channels. We need to create new processes and structures, and bring in new talent to take advantage of the evolving media landscape. In the same way that television show were plays that were filmed, we've tended to simply repurpose advertising units that were invented several decades ago. Secondly, we need to re-evaluate the role of advertising. For me, media agencies should not be advertising clients on how to spend marketing money, but applying design thinking, creativity, data and consumer understanding to solve client business problems.
W: How do you know which areas to focus on that will actually lead to business results, vs. being interesting, but potentially low-yielding dead-ends?
M: The hardest thing with innovation is that it needs people to take a risk. You can't do anything for the first time if you need to show previous success stories, because by definition it's never been done before. As an industry, we need to focus on our gut feelings and on superb ideas, not just data-supported arguments.
W: What areas do you think are being overlooked by the industry that could be game-changing opportunities in the future?
M: I believe that the industry is going to start targeting at a user level, serving messages directly to consumers. Right now, we still move people to visit websites or either enter some silly competition. Why not use ads to download mobile coupons or send offers to friends, or save locations to bookmark, or make phone calls?
W: How do you reconcile your role between innovating and applying it into strategy?
M: The hardest part of my job is establishing the "focal point". My approach is: first to take a long hard look at the future and see what will be possible one day, and then to consider an entry point that is buyable in the next 4 months, and make it happen.
W: What do you think of other agencies' getting directly into the ventures game to fuel innovation vis-a-vis capital? Or is it best left to professional venture capital firms, or clients to do directly?
M: I think the role of media agencies needs to be about collaboration and openness and fostering creativity, but the key is how that is done, and how we ensure that everything is about the best interests of our clients.
W: OK, Tom. Thanks for being with us.
Questions 6 to 10 are based on what you have just heard.
Q6: What is Tom's main role in his new position?
Q7: According to Tom, what does innovation require of people?
Q8: What does Tom see as game-changing chances in the future?
Q9: What does Tom do first to deal with the toughest part of his work?
Q10: Which of the following might Tom work for?