Jonathan Haber, a rising "creative" media star inside Omnicom Group, has been named Chief Innovation Officer of OMD, overseeing all of the agency's development of innovative media strategies and executions for both clients and OMD itself. Haber, who had been U.S. director of OMD's Ignition Factory since joining the agency three years ago to work with mentor OMD U.S. CEO Alan Cohen, will now oversee all of the agency's "innovation" units, including mobile shop Airwave, pop culture consultancy OMD Pop, an as-yet-unnamed gaming unit, and ventures unit VC@OMD, as well as some other spin-offs and start-ups still under wraps.
As part of the reorganization, two key members of the Ignition Factory team, Mark Simon and Dave Altarescu, have been given additional responsibility for developing new ideas and projects across OMD, though they will continue to work on their client-based accounts too.
Haber says the goal of the new structure is to simultaneously conceive and develop breakthrough media ideas for OMD's clients, as well as for the agency overall, catalyzing other parts of the media services organization to innovate, and spawning new businesses and ventures.
"We've assembled this group of creative thinkers, almost none of which came from traditional agencies, and we began to realize that we could use them to create other things - not just ideas for clients, but ideas for OMD - that could help position the agency for the future," he says, noting that Ignition Factory has grown from one person, Haber himself, when it was launched three years ago, to about 30 people with a diverse array of backgrounds.
While much of the factory's work has involved new digital media platforms - including the first ads on the iPad, the Flipbook, etc. - Haber says that's only because a lot of the newest and most innovative opportunities have come from new media platforms. But he says the goal is to think broadly, creatively and innovatively across all media.
As for the impact on the broader OMD organization, Haber cites the role of OMD Pop, which was initially developed to be an advisory keeping OMD's key clients in the loop on new pop culture developments in art, design, media and entertainment that could influence their use of media and branding. The unit tracks key trends and typically briefs clients on the brand specific implications of these trends in in-depth quarterly meetings. But Haber says the impact has been profound on OMD at large, and that they unit has effectively served as an internal resource for keeping the agency's entire organization current.
The work of VC@OMD has had a similar affect, he says. The unit, which stays close to the venture capital industry to track new ventures and start-ups that could profoundly impact the media marketplace, was key to OMD's role in managing PepsiCo's "Pepsi 10" incubator initiative last year, and has been key in organizing the GE/OMD Innovation Incubator, a 10-week program during which an elite team of student entrepreneurs are working at the agency to develop new media business concepts for GE and OMD.
A key part of the incubator program is the rub-off it is expected to have on the rest of OMD's organization, as regular agency employees work side-by-side with the young entrepreneurs, and also participate in a series of seminars and workshops conducted by industry experts participating in the program. Haber says the goal of the new organization is to spread the Ignition Factory's out-of-the-box thinking across OMD to help educate and train existing people, and to help attract new talent to the agency.
"We're more than just this creative SWAT team," Haber explains. "We've assembled this unique group of people - app developers, Web developers, marketing consultants, PR consultants, trend consultants - and the goal is to integrate them with the rest of our organization."