In ‘Think with Innovators’, we ask some of the leading figures from the world of digital marketing how they stay fresh and innovative. This week, Shenda Loughnane, Global Strategy Director at iProspect, gives us an insight into the growing relationship between data and creativity, and the challenge of scaling innovation to a global market.

“I couldn’t imagine doing anything more interesting than working in digital, or more exciting,” says Shenda Loughnane, summing up her passion for the world she joined some fifteen years ago, having started out in advertising as a TV buyer. Working in digital media almost from its very beginning, her experience covers everything from persuading clients to invest in skyscrapers during the heyday of banner ads, to present-day campaigns involving geolocation and sophisticated, context-aware search. From this experience she’s learned a few things about the importance of innovation, which she calls “the lifeblood of our industry.”

Reflecting on how a decade and a half of constant innovation has changed the business, Shenda says that success now requires a broader range of skills: “To be really good at digital today, you have to understand the full ecosystem, from the creative through to the media.” In addition, she believes that it’s not enough to innovate in isolation, as the global nature of clients, and the international footprint of the media agencies themselves, demands that good ideas must be scalable globally. “For me the big challenge in innovation in my role is absolutely about scale. You come up with an innovative new service for a client that works in a market like UK or France, and then you have to think how does that work in Asia-Pacific? How does that work in smaller markets? How does that work in markets that have a different way of operating?”

You just have to be someone who always wants to be better, who always wants to make that quantifiable difference.

Shenda Loughnane, Global Strategy Director, iProspect

Over the next few years, Shenda believes that data is going to be among the most important starting points for innovation. “One of the most recent things we’ve done is use data to influence the context in which we show people ads,” she says, describing a campaign for Hilton Hotels that used flight cancellation information to geo-target search ads at stranded travelers who found themselves in need of accommodation. “It was a unique combination of using data to optimise a search for a very specific consumer need.”

When asked to name a key characteristic of creative, forward-thinkers, Shenda says she believes that “good innovators are people who are not happy with the status quo.” Although she suspects that elements of this attitude are innate, that doesn’t mean it isn’t possible to foster an innovative mindset. ”Your clients challenge you to be more innovative, your colleagues challenge you to be more innovative. You just have to be someone who always wants to be better, who always wants to make that quantifiable difference.”

One way of cultivating greater creativity and innovation is by immersing yourself in the latest ideas and technology, but Shenda’s approach to this is reassuringly old-fashioned. “The way you stay up to date is you’ve got to read a lot, about things that really interest you,” she says, before acknowledging that keeping pace with new innovations a lot easier when you’re surrounded by passionate colleagues, who have a strong desire to learn more about the industry they love. “We're lucky in our agency that we get to work with people who are specialists. You can really tap into the knowledge that’s around you.”

After fifteen years in digital, Shenda’s fascination with the technology, the industry, and the people hasn’t dimmed at all. “I love my job,” she says in conclusion, “it’s amazing - I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.”