What does an innovation director actually do? Jump’s Anna-Lyse Garçon explains
Are they just glorified strategists? Can the job be done remotely? And why does ‘innovation’ need to be directed anyway? As we continue our series demystifying the roles that power the ad industry, Anna-Lyse Garçon of Jump explains all.
Anna-Lyse Garçon of indie agency Jump explains what an innovation director does / Jump
An innovation director has multiple hats. They’re a team leader; they need to empower the team to do their job correctly. It means face-to-face contact with clients. We need to make sure we understand what the client wants and we deliver what they want – and beyond. It requires you to be very strong on the strategy side, very ruthless and very creative.
I studied marketing and went directly into working for a startup in France called Klaxoon. It was incredibly exciting. Everything needed to be done. We went from five employees to hundreds in less than two years – it was a whirlwind, and I learned a lot. I was head of PR and comms, but we didn’t have a lot of budget. We had to be hackers. You need to be well-known, you need to go to CES, you have a very small booth – and you need to make more noise than Google. It was very creative; I loved it.
Working for the startup was very consuming… I’d say I dedicated my entire life to it. But I needed to exist beyond Klaxoon. This is why I set sail for Ireland. I decided to move all together, pack my things, and move abroad.
I lived in Dublin for two years, but we decided to move back to France, and luckily, Jump decided to keep me. We decided to try this hybrid type of work. I’ve always believed hybrid work can be efficient if you have the right people in your team, and it’s proving that way.
Now I’m an airport lady. I’m based in France, in Nantes, but I travel to Dublin or London every two weeks.
I love working for smaller companies because I believe that your voice matters. You know everyone, and people rely on you.
No day is ever the same. Jump specializes in making brands and reinventing brands. Our clients include Thai Union, the company that owns John West, and we work on big European projects for brands such as Heineken.
Part of the job is about strategy, part is about research, and the other part is about innovation: creating new concepts, new products, and new services.
I’m not the only innovation director at Jump; there’s another director in London. When I arrived at Jump, we had partners and senior strategists but nobody as innovation director. But the agency is growing and growing fast; it was a new job altogether.
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I have a team of four strategists who report to me, based in Ireland. They are very autonomous. We tend to recruit people who have the right mindset, people who come from varied backgrounds, from design, from history, from whatever.
We do work with the cultural studio on some projects. They specialize in cultural insights; sometimes, they’ll do ethnography work with consumers, staying in contact with them for a week, seeing what they think about a choice, and tracking their emotions.
Sometimes a project is so big and global that we need all hands-on deck; we’ll have people from Ireland, the US, and France. It’s good to bring that foreign perspective.
I also manage the client side – bringing in new clients, ensuring clients are happy with us and delivering good work on time. There’s a lot of project management related within my day-to-day.
We always need to have our finger on the pulse, knowing about everything that happens in the world. It’s a passion of mine, but it can be overwhelming because there are so many trends. The one thing I’ve learned is not to be swept up by the hype and to take the time to understand the key human drivers behind a trend. Don’t jump on it, take a step back.
What’s the key human insight? What’s the driver? It’s a real jungle out there. But an innovation director should be a meaning-seeker, not someone who wants to jump on to a moving train.
As told to Sam Bradley