It's a little odd to think that one of the sharpest guides to the cutting edge out there right now isn't being published on a Tumblr somewhere, or on the Internet at all, but in one of those old-fangled book things. But ask one of those people lucky enough to get a copy of the next issue of OMD Pop when it's published in January, and they'll tell you: It's the truth.
Published by the media agency OMD, OMD Pop is a pop culture journal that profiles under-the-radar but promising startups, bands, designers, and anything else that might just be the next hot thing. And yes, printing it as an actual book may seem odd, but it's a way to keep OMD's intelligence exclusive to its clients who receive a new book each quarter and often treat them as trend encyclopedias.
"I walked into a client's office at CBS and saw the whole collection of Pops on the shelf," says Marc Simons, director of marketing at OMD's creative group Ignition Factory, who scours the startup space for promising innovations to share with clients through Pop. That client, Anne O'Grady, evp of CBS Marketing, says, "Those little books, what they do is one of my favorite things. I like to see innovative thinking because ideas spark ideas. . . . When you have a resource that comes to you without even asking and it shows up on your desk, it's great."
OMD has been aggressive about its hunt for the truly undiscovered. In events it hosts frequently in San Francisco, the agency engages in something like speed dating with groups of prelaunch startups: feverish 10-minute conversations to decide whether the budding companies should be featured in Pop. Not all of the companies that attend will ever make it big, but those that do, well, OMD got to them first. "This is stuff that hasn't launched yet," says Jonathan Haber, OMD's chief innovation officer. "You can't find these companies on TechCrunch."
It was at one such event in 2009—the year Pop launched—that OMD discovered Flipboard, a social magazine iPad app, before it had even raised its first round of funding. Not only did OMD include Flipboard in Pop, but it also struck a deal with the company during its first year of business that gave OMD advertisers, including Pepsi and Hilton Worldwide, exclusive ad placement on Flipboard. Last year, Apple named Flipboard "iPad App of the Year," and this fall it hit 3.5 million downloads. Flipboard's inclusion in Pop also led CBS to use it to help launch its shows this year. "Flipboard is a perfect example of [Pop] working exactly as we want it to," Haber says.
Haber believes keeping clients ahead of the cultural curve is essential, given the pace of technological and cultural change lately. Waiting until clients come to OMD for information on innovations is not an option. "Once they ask for it, you're behind," he says.