Industry Insight: Rethink’s Dré Labre on Insight, the Idea and Innovation

Don’t tell Dré Labre that today’s industry landscape is “still about The Big Idea” and “social is just another channel.” Not unless you want to reveal yourself to lag in the digital adoption cycle.

It’s not the size of the idea that matters, if you ask Dré. It’s the potential for the idea to grow, to collaborate with other ideas for a greater impact and its relevance to a problem-solving key insight that’s important.

The idea has transitioned to the internet over the course of Dré’s career, which has been rooted in digital not advertising, though he is presently a Creative Director at Rethink Toronto.

Dré has been innovating in interactive at agencies for more than ten years and he has only recently seen the masses catch up to what he was doing a decade ago. While “social media” may have become a marketable medium when Facebook and Twitter made it a buzzword, Dré used the original “social media” of yore. Dré tapped into the niche networks communicating via Usenet in the late 90’s to post scripts and ask for feedback. These Usenet focus groups, excited to be given a platform to share thoughts on their passion, responded with insights that allowed Dré’s agency and clients to provide beneficial value to consumers.

Insights are the foundational nuggets upon which the idea is based, and a lack of investment in research and development prevents most agencies from pioneering originality.

Dré can name numerous instances where a brand could have (and should have) developed some of the most fantastically popular (though sometimes debatably useful) apps on the market. Instead, passionate innovators with some free time and a good idea develop an app in their basement, and agencies later swipe and re-brand these innovators’ ideas for their clients.

Apathetic imitation does not a good idea make.

Which is why, when hiring creatives at Rethink, it’s not just a portfolio of work that interests Dré. He also wants to see a portfolio of passion that will add dynamics to his diverse staff. Dré’s dedication to his own passions, photography and music (he plays in the Darned), not only fuel a creative fire but also remind him to remain committed to the DIY esthetic of interactive. Tapping into passion unleashes the most inspired creativity, and Dré knows how to leverage his teams’ passions to produce work that will beat the guy in the basement. Dré blends the most qualified team for each project based more on each individual’s interests and subject knowledge than their job title.

It’s Dré and his custom-built teams that create apps such as Egg Timer, a simple but engaging tool that promotes repeated use of both the app and his client’s product. Or Realizer, which Rethink created to enable agencies to quickly frame up an app pitch on the go.

Realizer demonstrates that Rethink and Dré embrace the open collaboration, and sharing of ideas big and small, that is facilitated by the internet. Dré describes his online philosophy as “take a penny, leave a penny,” with a reminder that every day in digital is a new revelation.

Put the idea before the technology and the meaning before the mechanics, Dré said. Assuming such wisdom is accurate, there are, and will continue to be plenty of pennies to go around. 

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