In April, Digitas decided to launch a "Connected Hackathon" aimed at coming up with projects to help clients or regular people – or both – adapt to the new, continuously changing world.
At first, the initiative was only going to be open to the agency’s own team members, but Digitas CEO Jodi Robinson suggested extending it to all Publicis Groupe staffers in North and South America to broaden the spectrum of ideas.
COVID-19 set the stage for the hackathon since clients have been asking Digitas for help with new ways of working and thinking throughout the pandemic, but the bigger picture is about evolution and changes in the world.
"Although people often associate the concept of ‘hacking’ with malicious activity, it’s actually a time-tested tool for unlocking creativity. You get orthogonal thinking and fresh perspective. It’s a tool that can get you out of ‘we do it this way because we’ve always done it this way,’" said Adam Buhler, senior VP, technology and experiential lead at Digitas.
One of the themes that stood out among the hackathon ideas is focused on "leveraging tech to unleash and support a spirit of volunteerism," said Buhler.
Additionally, the agency saw a lot of interest in personal and professional wellness, travel and cooking among the project concepts, as well as finding novel approaches to enable customers to more deeply connect with brands that matter to them.
"It was so difficult to pick a single winner," said Buhler. "There was an entry geared around search tools focused on the small business community. We’ve since had discussions about how it could engage African-American-owned businesses and help them get more visibility, and even talked it up with senior leadership at one of the FAANG companies this week."
Now that the top ideas have been selected, Digitas is wasting no time in bringing them to life for clients. And the shop plans on holding more hackathons with new parameters and specific client challenges going forward.