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M&C Saatchi's Ben Welsh warns ad industry could lose its 'natural born innovators' if IP issues aren't solved

The ad industry is in danger of losing its “natural born innovators” as the talent of today wants startup-like remuneration for their ideas, according to M&C Saatchi creative chair for Asia Ben Welsh.

Speaking to The Drum at Adfest in Thailand, Welsh praised Asia for the potential for it to lead innovation but warned against some key issues, which have wider global implications too.

Welsh referenced Cannes Innovation winner ‘What. Three. Words’ and said that a typical ad reaction would be to think ‘wow this would be great for DHL’. But , he said, the new reaction is for an agency to work out how it can keep the IP, or at least share it with clients.

“We have joint ventures with clients for some of our work for very same reason. Our work could be patented and for first time what we do can be measured in ROI. Ads are tricky to measure but this is tangible,” he said.

“But what about team came up with it? They want a slice of the pie. The most gifted innovators will leave and start their own company. I lost one team, they want to startup on their own. I think it’s fair enough but it’ll become a problem,” he warned.

Welsh believes that Asia is well placed to excel at innovation because of cultural differences, as well as markets like China and India having a long history of being inventors. He cited Yang Liu’s book ‘East meets west’, which depicts key differences between the people in the two parts of the world (see image above). He selected the willingness to welcome in new, natural collaboration and a coveting of innovation as positive attributes. However, he said innovation in the east may be held back by cultural aspects such as putting bosses on a pedestal, something which would hamper the ‘fail fast’ attitude that’s needed.

To show how M&C Saatchi were adapting to fit this, he used the example of its ‘Clever Buoy’ campaign for Optus, which he said was not in its third iteration, showing how work for clients don’t necessarily need to be right first time.

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