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Zee Melt 2016: Nicole Yershon tells the story of an ‘intrepreneur’

Yershon shares her journey at Ogilvy’s innovation labs and how brands and the ad fraternity could learn from her experience and learnings

Akansha Mihir Mota | Delhi | August 29, 2016

Nicole Yershon Nicole Yershon

World-class speakers from across the globe took charge of sessions on topics such as digital, marketing and innovation at Zee Melt 2016. Nicole Yershon, Former Founder, Ogilvy Labs at Ogilvy & Mather, was one of them. She spoke about her journey at Ogilvy’s innovation labs and how her experience could help marketers and the creative fraternity in everyday life.

Yershon started off by saying, “This is my story and I am going to present it for the last time. It is my story of how I build the labs. This is the story of an ‘intrepreneur’. An ‘intrepreneur’ is someone with an entrepreneurial personality working within a big organisation where entrepreneurs don’t usually survive long.”

Yershon talked about her journey with Ogilvy and Mather, which she joined in 2000. In the first four years, Yershon overhauled the agency’s broadcast and video-editing capabilities; taking them from analogue to digital. She founded the Ogilvy Digital Lab, which was shut recently as part of cost-cutting measures in 2008.

In her presentation, she put forward 10 points and the lessons she had learnt in her journey at the labs.

  1. Freedom to test and learn

She needed a budget to set up the lab stage. When she approached the finance department, she got a no. She had to look out for the same. She needed money to set up the lab space from gesture recognition to 3D printers. They also had to build a website. With the help of her boss, she managed to get some cash flowing into the labs.

  1. The 6 Rs

The lab had to show some results. To measure success, she prepared 6 Rs: Revenue, Reputation, Recruitment, Retention, Relationships and Responsibility. One project that flew off the charts on these scales was a campaign they created for chocolate company Beyond Dark. In the lab, they set out to scientifically prove that the chocolate brand induced the most pleasurable experience.


  1. Collaboration and relationships

They collaborated with start-ups to come up with ideas and to innovate as money was required to run the lab.

  1. Get out of your comfort zone

One needs to get out of his or her comfort zone to produce something new. In that course of extra efforts and a lot of research, they came out with an award-winning campaign. The campaign for Beyond Dark chocolate originated with a ‘Measure of Pleasure’ – a series of tests run by Ogilvy Labs to gauge how chocolate rates on people’s pleasure scale. Ultimately, an experiment in R&D turned into a brilliant piece of content marketing for the brand, capturing how 21st-century marketing is more about story-making than self-promotion.


  1. Future methods of testing

It is important to invest money in innovation. One needs to push to find newer ways of testing.

  1. If you can see and touch it, then it feels real.

One of the testing that happened at the innovation centre was that if one can see and touch something, then it can definitely touch the emotional side of the mind and can create a change in the behaviour of people.

  1. Ensure there’s room to play

There should be some entertainment factor at the labs and not just work. The lab has received a lot of such items by their partners.

  1. Work with the right people

This is something really important. The lab came up with a model Rough Diamond -- a collaboration between educational disrupters and innovators in educational learning who partnered to identify, develop and nurture new creative talent. By collaborating, a diamond-shaped route into industry is created. Harvesting, nurturing and developing young talent, who after completing the scheme is ready to be able to feed back into the system of mentoring the next generation of talent. A sparkling self-sustainable model is born, delivering knowledge skills and expertise to those with a passion to succeed.

  1. A little success leads to attention

In the course of innovation, they created a device for the brand Holition, an augmented reality device. This one could experience how the undergarments look on them without actually wearing them.

  1. The art of giving

During the course of the lab, they prepared a sandbox that fetched them a couple of thousand pounds. The companies that reached us wanted to make by-products or something like that. One of the products the lab made was Alphasphere, a sound box made of plastic cups. The product was very successful and mostly used in clubs.

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