The IPG Media Lab on West 33rd St. is like a mini-Consumer Electronics Show on the doorstep of New York's Penn Station. Opened four months ago in New York, after a nine-year run in L.A., it provides IPG Mediabrands clients and partner agencies with a hands-on survey of the latest personal gadgets, interactive displays, wearable devices, embedded retail tech, and set-top boxes.
But unlike CES, the Media Lab exists not only to paint the future's picture for each guest, but to translate the tangle of technology into a strategic marketing plan.
"We're not here to just dazzle," says David Rosenberg, who runs the IPG Media Lab along with partner Chad Stoller. "Typically we have a brief and we know what the challenges are, so everything will be curated and customized."
Even the signage changes depending on which IPG agency or client is breezing through.
Rosenberg recently gave ClickZ a 45-minute tour of the Lab, a whirlwind compared to the typical two to three hour client visit. Both Rosenberg and Stoller are seasoned digital agency guys with years logged in emerging media roles - Rosenberg at JWT and Stoller at BBDO and Organic.
The Media Lab employs 15 full-time staff and boasts "500 vetted emerging technologies and platforms." Some of those platforms have participation in Mediabrand's investment arm, Velociter, but most have no monetary ties to the agency network.
Among the gadgets and digital baubles Lab visitors will see:
After all this, it's almost a relief to learn that the kitchen at the end of the tour is an ordinary kitchen. No connected refrigerators or socially enabled spice racks here.
Rosenberg and Stoller don't focus too much on the individual technologies, preferring to paint a big picture. "It may start outdoor, as you walk through the door, as you shop, as you connect into the loyalty programs. We're more focused on the entirety of the experience."
"We're just here to say, this is what's happening in the world. What are we gonna do about it?"
In the short video below, Rosenberg demonstrates a handful of emerging retail technologies and discusses IPG Media Lab's broad vision and its approach to working with partner agencies:
His main point, often reiterated, is that the Lab is not doing its job unless a client comes away with actionable campaign ideas.
Microsoft's corporate VP of advertising sales, Frank Holland, agrees that's the Media Lab's key strength. After a recent tour, he said, "They've done a smart job business-wise of pulling a story together. So many of those things are just show and tell."
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Until March 2012, Zach Rodgers was managing editor of ClickZ's award-winning coverage of news and trends in digital marketing. He reported on the rise of web companies, data markets, ad technologies, and government Internet policy, among other subjects.