Upcoming Courses

  • GDPR Workshop - Full Day After hosting a hugely successful f...
    6 September 2017
  • OverviewNegotiation is a fundamental life skill, we negotiat...
    14 September 2017
  • The AAR and IPM have collaborated to deliver Pitching to Win...
    20 September 2017
view-all

Upcoming Events

view-all

How to be an Intrepreneur

Key learnings 

  • "An intrepreneur is someone with an entrepreneurial personality working within a big organisation where entrepreneurs don’t usually survive long” 
  • “To change course, we need to see what is possible” 
  • “Digital makes things bigger, better, stronger and faster,” Yershon said. When she started with Ogivly, it was things like replacing couriers with digital channels for delivering collateral, speeding up the process of creating ads and marketing communications while also saving money. 
  • “There is always a lot of fear from people within an organisation who resist change… But if you go through the pain barrier for about three months, then the new becomes the norm.” 
  • “You have to get out of your comfort zone to be an intrepreneur. Most people within any organisation stick together. That’s true of industries. So Mobile World Congress in Barcelona gets 70,000 mobile industry people – all sticking together. Cannes – ad people, all sticking together. Go to the places you wouldn’t normally go and talk to people you wouldn’t normally talk to. "
  • “We look for the tough kids and the drop-outs, because they are the entrepreneurs. They are the ones who can’t sit in an office for eight hours because they’re bored. We’ve had a 50% success rate so far. We are showing that kids who fail in school can be future leaders.” 
  • “Hire hunters!” 

 

NicoleYershon, Director of Innovative Solutions, Ogilvy Group Advertising   

Summary 

An intrepreneur is an entrepreneur working within a big organisation where entrepreneurs “don’t usually survive long, according to Nicole Yershon, Director of Innovative Solutions, Ogilvy Group Advertising. But organisations need them if they are to fully exploit new technology. 

Yershon was tasked with creating Ogilvy Labs to explore new ground because “to change course, we need to see what is possible.” 

The biggest barrier is fear. “There is always a lot of fear from people within an organisation who resist change; but if you go through the pain barrier for about three months, then the new becomes the norm.” 

Large organisations like Ogivly have traditional routes to get funding for new projects: but it is difficult to get funding for new ideas. In setting up Ogilvy Labs, Yershon looked to generate funds in a different way. “To have the freedom to test and learn, you need a budget; but Ogilvy didn’t give me a budget six years ago – so I came up with the idea of renting out Rory Sutherland [Vice Chairman of Ogilvy Group UK and a much sought-after speaker and commentator] and using the money to fund Ogilvy Labs.” 

Sutherland let Yershon ‘market’ his services to conferences organisers for a fee. “So that’s how I generated the funds to develop ideas without having to ask for money! Asking for money is usually a big hassle – and can mean projects get delayed or abandoned.” 

Partnerships with technology developers and software companies are another way to self-fund innovation. Because of such partnerships, Ogilvy Labs “has hundreds of thousands of pounds worth of kit without having to pay for it.” 

Ogilvy Labs is effectively only 3.5 people. “We get everybody else to do the hard work – Ogilvy Group Advertising has 1,600 staff and 10 group companies. We are just a back office with no client interface and no profit and loss – so we have the freedom we need.” 

Ogilvy Labs works by focusing on particular areas of interest and learning everything it can about them in minute detail. Typically, it spends 24 weeks researching a particular topic. 

When it was exploring streaming, it saw 10 to 15 streaming companies every two weeks for 24 weeks. The result was that Ogilvy was able to generate new revenue from a completely new area. Ford, a client, used streaming video to distribute messages from top management to staff worldwide. But its technology was slow and expensive. Ogilvy found a better and cheaper way to do the job. As a result, it was commissioned by Ford to create the content. 

Ogilvy Labs sits very much in the background. It has no client facing role. It works by identifying new technologies and channels and matching up Ogilvy teams with potential solutions or new opportunities, either connecting them with others within the agency who have used them or with people outside. 

“You have to get out of your comfort zone to be an intrepreneur. Most people within any organisation stick together. That’s true of industries. So Mobile World Congress in Barcelona gets 70,000 mobile industry people – all sticking together. Cannes – ad people, all sticking together.” 

So to be intrepreneurial, you need to go to the shows and exhibitions you wouldn’t normally attend and talk to people you wouldn’t normally talk to. “I have a staff member called Will, who goes to all the shows he can and produces a five page report summarising all the learnings from them. He’s dyslexic, but he produces brilliant summaries of what he has seen and learnt. Usually, Ogilvy wouldn’t have employed him or would have tried to ‘fix’ him – but I don’t need him fixed, because he couldn’t do what we need him to do, which is find partners we wouldn’t have found otherwise.”

For example, Will found MyndPlay, a company developing brain activity scanning headsets for gaming and educational use. But Ogilvy Labs took the technology and used it to measure and demonstrate the pleasure of eating chocolate. This formed the basis of a launch campaign for a new chocolate brand, Beyond Dark. "We moved the brand from obscurity to page one on Google.” 

Ogilvy is now working with four major clients on projects featuring MyndPlay. 

Ogilvy found Will through The Rough Diamond project, a collaboration between Ogilvy, The Ideas Foundation, The School of Communication Arts, Ravensbourne University, digital cultural curator onedotzero and The Marketing Academy. The purpose is to identify students in various London boroughs who appear to be failing in school but who actually have huge potential. 

“We look for the tough kids and the drop-outs, because they are the entrepreneurs. They are the ones who can’t sit in an office for eight hours because they’re bored. We’ve had a 50% success rate so far. We are showing that kids who fail in school can be future leaders.” 

Yershon has one last piece of advice to anyone looking to build ‘intrepreneurialism’ within their organisation: “Hire hunters!”