Chris Copeland Gets in the Lab

CEO of GroupM's new digital unit, looks at everything tech

As CEO of GroupM’s newly created innovation center GroupM Next, Chris Copeland is tasked with helping his company navigate the fast-moving world of digital media and spot opportunities for its clients. He spoke with Adweek about what brands should expect when working with huge digital media companies—and tiny startups.

Adweek: Why does GroupM need a dedicated innovation group?

Our goal is very simply to help our existing media agencies amplify the opportunities in the marketplace for the brands they work with. Those opportunities come in the form of established partners like Facebook, Google and Microsoft, but also in emerging companies—some of which are of a viable scale and some that are just entirely new. If we can give our group a platform where they can test, learn and start to scale those opportunities, our clients will benefit faster.

What do brands need to realize about partnering with the latest cool startup?

First, there’s no substitute for scale. I tend to look at 100 million users as a really important threshold. When they get to a certain size, they have a lot of data that can influence their development. Second, it’s important to [ask if] it’s changing consumer behavior. When you see a company changing the way consumers act and spend their time, those are the types of companies you want to spend more time thinking about: Instagram, Pinterest and Shazam. Third, test budgets as a concept are fine, but if you’re not prepared to build that into the long-term media mix, you’re limiting how successful a given test can be.

How will you work with different tech companies?

With established companies [like Google and Facebook], it will come in feedback loops that help them better understand how we use their products, value their service and think they can evolve their business to meet our needs. For emerging companies that are changing the consumer-behavior model, we have to help brands understand what that shift means for them and how [they] have to adapt.

What about the Pinterests of the world that don’t even have an ad model yet?

It’s important for us to show them what we think opportunities of value look like. And to become a bit [like] ad format creatives, if you will.

What category of emerging technology or trend is most interesting to you now?

I think there’s an enormous amount going on in audio. [There’s] discovery via Spotify, Pandora and Shazam and audio watermarking synchronization [that] connects devices. [For brands], there’s a real opportunity to extend and enhance the conversation with their community.

What’s the next big thing brands should be aware of?

The changes that mobile and social commerce [are bringing to the] buying experience. The shift in what brands define as e-commerce and how they can create experiences that match up with that.

What’s the most exciting thing you’ve recently seen in tech?

The Coachella concert with Dr. Dre and the hologram of Tupac Shakur. When you look at where devices are going and virtual experiences, I think you’ll point back to that as the moment when the future people have seen in movies and believed was going to happen became real on a large scale.