Anna Nicanorova characterizes innovation in today’s marketing-technology world as being: fast, open and boundless. Originally from Chishinau, Moldova, she worked in her home country, as well as in Germany, Russia, The Netherlands, and the United States. Today, from her base in New York, she leads Annalect Labs, the innovation department within Annalect, Omnicom’s data-driven marketing solutions agency.
Her mission at Annalect Labs is to create semi-stable prototypes (mainly marketing software) that solve old problems in a new and efficient way, or provide a fresh approach to marketing communications. Labs activates 15-17 projects per year.
The one that stands out this year is Superbowl Moodometer - the facial recognition technology used to track how people really feel about advertising. Anna’s team built and executed the project in under two weeks. They quickly learned how facial recognition technology works, developed the prototype internally, and spent a week monitoring participants. They were excited to how technology can work to distinguish people’s attitudes and perceptions of brands based solely on facial expressions.
Given her approach to problems, it’s clear that Anna is a natural innovator. She says, “I do not see anything as static, fixed or determined. I hold a strong opinion that everything in the world is dynamic - just because we ‘always did things this way’ doesn’t mean that we should keep on doing it this way, especially if the method is painful, long, inefficient and expensive.”
Since Annalect Labs’ mission is innovation, Anna tells her team: “The sky is the limit-- as long as the oxygen is infused with marketing molecules.” In other words, they can choose any technology/ coding language/hardware part, as long as they are solving for a marketing problem. “Technology for us is just a tool to accomplish bigger marketing goals for our clients - retain customers, increase awareness, etc. So even when sometimes we get carried away ‘geeking out’ on a specific API/dataset, I always try to re-route my team to think of the actual application to solving the problem at hand. It can be amazing tech, but if it doesn’t solve the strategic marketing problem, there is no point for us to use it.”
She admits that the biggest challenge she faces for any prototype is feasibility and adoption. “We might think that a prototype is cool and ground-breaking internally, but then we take it outside our team and people are just underwhelmed. Or worst, they think it’s cool, they play with the tool for 5 minutes and never touch it again. This is a problem, whether working across US offices or taking it globally and I am constantly trying to closely monitor how people use or prototypes, instead of just talking about how innovative something is.”
In addition to her work, Anna is a serious mountain climber, having scaled the tallest mountains on 3 continents (Kilimanjaro, Elbrus, Aconcagua). With four to go, she working on completing the Seven Summits. Plus, she’s the co-founder of a meet-up group called Whiskey and Books, which, no doubt, have both been comforts on her climbs!