Why creativity is at the heart of innovation…

"We push for innovation in everything we do," says Fran Nolan, managing director of Bromsgrove-based Superdream, an award-winning marketing agency.

Superdream's portfolio spans B2B and B2C, featuring premier blue-chip clients as well as a tranche of household names such as Drayton Manor, one of the agency's recent wins.

The agency demonstrates the role of cutting-edge technology in innovation - using its sister company "Okra" to uncover the power of artificial intelligence. Okra are AI experts that deliver real-time analytics to the likes of Unilever in order to fine-tune and flex marketing.

Superdream makes sure that innovation underpins its technical expertise and is at the heart of all of its business operations, from staff attraction and retention, to problem solving to client management.

"An innovative solution doesn't have to be digital," explains Fran.

Innovative working patterns

Having cut her teeth in the world of corporate marketing, working at a senior level with energy giant nPower and insurance specialists Legal & General, Fran joined Superdream in 2015 as planning and insights director. She was tasked with making sure insights were fully incorporated in briefs and ensuring that all campaigns were strongly customer driven.

By 2017, the agency had 50 staff and has over 40 clients including Bosch, British Athletics and Paramount Pictures.

Fran credits the business' success with its commitment to achieving the best for clients in a truly responsive and innovative way.

By the time Fran joined Superdream, she was a mum - which prompted a huge shift in her attitude to the most productive ways of working. Now she is a passionate advocate for flexible working.

"Agencies are notoriously bad at being flexible with staff but I believe flexible working is essential to grab the talent" says Fran.

"We have part time workers at all levels (including my own). We are on board when people need to work from home - let's not pretend that we don't have life admin to deal with - the message we want to give our staff is 'you're trusted'.

Innovation is...daring to be different

"Our mantra became 'defeat normal' - we quickly worked out that you can't outperform by adhering to market standards; you have to challenge, your offering has to be different," says Fran.

Although many marketing agencies work way into the evening hours, Superdream has a unique 24-7 working pattern, thanks to its second office in Australia.

"Every morning and every evening we call Australia," says Fran. "We hand work over a few days every week. It's great because you get to come in fresh and they've had a completely different take on it overnight.

Creating an environment where innovation thrives

"For me innovation is massively about culture," says Fran. An advocate of creating a team of people who gel and integrate exceptionally well, she explains that a lot of thought goes into the hiring process because it's essential that new staff fit in with the team and have the same ability and ambition.
"In terms of employee engagement, we have projects on that all the time that help ensure Superdream is a working environment that really celebrates and gets excited about innovation," says Fran.

"We pride ourselves on our creativity and how we respond to briefs. Our team takes part in Young Glory, a global advertising competition which focuses on unusual creative briefs to stretch creative thinking - we really encourage our young employees to get involved.

"It could be anything from how Tesco sell an electric vehicle to how do you encourage people to utilise public toilets in India, to ideas for combating online radicalisation," says Fran.

Innovation is creative problem solving

"For us, innovation is about taking a client's problem and using our creative and technical skills to solve it," says Fran.

André Picart, Digital Director at Superdream points out that although tech can be used to drive innovation, the real innovation lies in how and when you use it.

"Digital advertising was originally driven by client demands or by customers wants and needs. Now progressive strategies are being driven by the advent of tech," says Picart.

"It has become a bit of a competition between agencies to utilise the latest tech, gadgets or techniques in order to be distinguished as innovative but it doesn't always match up. For example, you wouldn't necessarily use Snapchat when advertising pensions as it's the wrong platform for the audience.

That may be a simplistic and crude example but we see this practice a lot when auditing digital plans. Brands are easily wooed by the latest tech and will often compare agencies based on tech adoptions whether its relevant to them or not."

Innovation - the wow factor

"If we weren't innovative we wouldn't be able to wow our clients, responding to briefs and challenges innovatively is something that is in the DNA of our business," says Fran. "Our success is really down to our passion for achieving the best for all our clients in a truly responsive and innovative way."

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