Innovation starts with people who push boundaries and challenge the status quo.

Within The Toronto Star advertising department, there is a newly created team of innovators. This team is aptly named the “Integrated Solutions” team and is designed to work across the organisation and collaboratively with clients to deliver effective, cutting-edge programmes for advertisers.

Over the past year, The Toronto Star has gathered multi-disciplinary professionals with backgrounds in sales, marketing, promotions, journalism, media planning, digital strategy, and product development to provide a strong foundation for the team.

Carolyn Sadler (director for integrated solutions and business development) spoke at last week’s INMA/NAA Innovative Advertising Seminar and provided some insights as to how the team functions and deals with the new reality of requests for proposals (due NOW) and the industry-wide quest for new, never-been-done-before programmes to “wow” readers and advertisers alike.

While the team at The Star is relatively new, this concept is not.

Many media companies have created similar groups to streamline integration of brands and platforms within their portfolios. The Integrated Solutions team has evolved significantly from where it started and has had its fair share of challenges, but also some value learning:

  • Be flexible: Not all clients are ready for a multi-touchpoint, solutions-based approach, especially across multiple brands. It’s important to understand target audiences and be flexible in the recommended approach and investment.

  • Adapt: You don’t know what you don’t know … until you do. It’s critical to continue to evolve processes and offers to maximise the revenue opportunity. 

  • Be collaborative: Don’t operate in isolation. Identify and develop relationships with key stakeholders across the organisation (sales, content/editorial, consumer marketing, etc.) to ensure support for the team and their efforts.

  • Be honest:  Have open discussions and admit mistakes. Earn the trust of the marketplace, including colleagues, third-party providers, agencies, and marketers.

  • Keep learning: Stay current with product evolution within the company portfolio as well as new media developments around the globe. Be familiar with options available to your clients and how they affect your business.

  • Keep your sense of humour: Inevitably when you set out to do something differently, you will encounter obstacles, criticism, and opinions, and have a few missteps along the way. Take it in stride and push forward.

The Solutions team was able to do exciting work in 2012 with existing key accounts, lapsed advertisers, and a host of brand-new, non-traditional advertisers. Sales teams see the value in The Star’s very own, built-in “think tank” of cross-functional professionals that are ready to help create custom solutions for their clients.

The Solutions team will at times experience challenges and setbacks, but the momentum is encouraging. The outlook is very bright for 2013!