30 Years and Counting

On February 23, 2023, INNOVATIVE officially turns 30. Sometimes it’s hard to believe that we’ve been at this for 30 years—through three decades of editing videos, telling stories, and helping our clients solve their problems. After all, the INNOVATIVE we know today looks very different than it did back then. Our company has grown significantly. Employees have come and gone, and new technologies have changed just about every step of our workflow.

But in some ways, our work hasn’t changed at all. INNOVATIVE was founded to become the best possible partner for our clients, and that core mission is still the foundation of our company. Things like creativity, urgency, and community are built into the DNA of who we are—and how we do business.

I’m one of the people who’s been here since day one, so I guess it’s fitting that I was asked to pen this post. I’ve slept many nights since 1993, but I will do my best to share the story how INNOVATIVE has grown into the agency it is today. So, in honor of our 30th anniversary, let’s take a little trip down memory lane.

The early years at INNOVATIVE were all about video editing.

Our story really starts with Lingner Group Productions—Terry Lingner’s television production company. Terry and his team produced award-winning shows for ESPN, SPEED Channel, and other national networks, but they didn’t have the infrastructure for post-production. They used to walk across the street to the television station I worked at, where they would edit and package their shows for broadcast. As the company grew, Lingner Group decided to invest in their own post-production facility, and that decision led to the creation of INNOVATIVE.

INNOVATIVE served as Lingner Group’s dedicated sister company and post-production house for years. We helped them edit and package hundreds of shows for national networks—and to this day, Terry relies on INNOVATIVE to execute his most ambitious production projects.

But during those early years, we also started growing our agency clientele, building our reputation as a trusted partner for commercial work. We edited television shows and documentaries, as well as commercials for well-known brands like Goodwill and Steak ’n Shake. In fact, some of the partnerships we cultivated back then are still clients and partners today.

Video production back in the ‘90s looked a lot different than it does now. Back then, everything was done on tape. Each shoot required huge cameras and enough tapes to keep rolling. A single edit bay filled an entire room with wall-to-wall computers, monitors, and tape decks. And if the client wanted to review a video, we’d have to literally mail it to them.

Tapes also made editing more linear, forcing us to watch and review the footage in real-time. If a show was 90 minutes it would take 90 minutes to master it (put it to tape) and another 90 minutes to view it for quality control. God forbid there was an error that process started again.

But no matter how we edit, one thing has stayed the same: good storytelling is still good storytelling.

Today, storytelling has become a bit of a marketing buzzword. But we come from a time where there was nothing to hide behind. Every single piece we produced had to tell a coherent, compelling story, and we’ve taught that lesson to each new generation of INNOVATIVE employees.

We mastered “the pivot” long before people grew to hate the phrase.

Change can be intimidating for a lot of companies. But here at INNOVATIVE, we’ve been growing and adapting to our clients’ needs for as long as I can remember. Early on, those changes were still focused on video production. We added new graphic boxes, upgraded our edit bays, started using a compositing software, and made the jump to other new technologies. These changes still comfortably fit within our wheelhouse as a company—but not for long.

Around that time, several of our clients reached out to us for help with design (beyond video graphics). They loved our ideas and wanted to use them for things like print materials and billboards, but we weren’t built for that. So, we took the initiative and decided to expand our capabilities. We brought in designers and art directors who could work on video graphicswhile helping us grow into new design areas. With their expertise, INNOVATIVE quickly began designing brands, event creative, and other marketing collateral for our clients.

One of our first design clients was Fusek’s True Value—a local hardware store in Indianapolis. that was about to open and needed help with branding and marketing. Their brand was built to last with a timeless retro look that’s still going strong decades later. They remain a client to this day.

With that first pivot, we realized that INNOVATIVE could evolve beyond video production—and that our production experience was a unique differentiator. We cut our teeth in the high-speed world of broadcast television, which means we approach things differently than our competitors. Unlike traditional marketing agencies, our team moves at a breakneck pace that comes from years of knowing we go live at 6:00—not 6:01.

That “broadcast sense of urgency” was built into our DNA from day one, and it remains one of our core values today.

Adding account managers and producers helped everything run smoothly.

One can never underestimate the importance of logistics. Early on at INNOVATIVE, our sales team doubled as both client services and project managers. They were constantly juggling new business opportunities with existing projects, and it wasn’t long before this frustrated the sales and creative team alike. But this frustration ultimately led to one of the most important changes at INNOVATIVE—the creation of the Account Management Team. (Although, the “team” was just Curt for a few years.)

By separating sales and project management, everyone could focus on their strengths. The sales team could always be out selling, while the creative team kept creating. And the account managers would go between the two, ensuring that everyone had what they needed to succeed. Ultimately, this became the single point of truth across all INNOVATIVE projects. Every project has an account manager. No exceptions.

Around the same time, we started adding producers to our staff. These producers focused on managing all things creative, while the account managers focused on managing the logistics, keeping everything running on time and on budget.

Today, our account managers and producers work on all types of projects—from brand creation and video production to web development and content marketing. Their roles have grown and changed alongside the company, requiring new skillsets and more responsibilities. But our team is nothing if not adaptable. One thing that’s always been true is that the most successful INNOVATIVE employees are problem solvers and lifelong learners. This is especially true for our account managers and producers because they lead projects of all kinds and all scales.

INNOVATIVE grew into digital and interactive work organically.

Our interactive department started when our corporate clients wanted to use our video content to build interactive CD-ROMs. Yes, you read that correctly. Before we were building websites or VR experiences, we had a team dedicated to building, testing, and deploying interactive CD-ROMS for clients like Roche and Eli Lilly. And believe it or not, this was a very lucrative part of our business.

But over time, it became clear that CD-ROMS as a medium would soon become obsolete. We quickly changed gears and started working in other digital spaces to keep our department alive. From flash animations to CMS-driven websites, we learned how to turn digital platforms into dynamic experiences for our clients.

Our first websites were for a variety of clients, ranging from national nonprofits like USA Diving to local businesses like Monarch Beverages. We worked with Ball State University to develop an interactive prototype for their electronic field trip program, and we built a custom press center for Royal Caribbean that still lives on today. This was especially remarkable at the time because the only other brand with an immersive press center was Coca-Cola.

Now, our interactive work focuses mostly on WordPress website development and innovative virtual reality experiences. We love bringing in a touch of technology to add an extra wow factor to our projects, especially for bids and presentations.

Royal Caribbean Press Center 2008

Royal CaribbeanPress Center 2023

Then, all we had to do was put the pieces together.

Over the years, INNOVATIVE grew to embrace all forms of marketing, gradually expanding our services to fit our clients’ needs. But many of our clients never realized just how much we could do. Whether it was video production or brand development, clients came to us for a specific reason and only associated us with that medium.

So, about 10 years ago, we made a concentrated effort to change that perception—and brand INNOVATIVE as a true creative agency.

This effort was largely led by Nicole and Curt, who’d seen just how much the company grew over the years. As a producer and account manager, they had experience managing diverse projects and were intimately familiar with the inner workings of each department. This helped them identify opportunities for collaboration and start proactively managing projects that involved every department, while helping the sales team reach for those new and complex opportunities.

Nicole often jokes that INNOVATIVE is an “un-agency” because we don’t operate like a traditional marketing company. But this transition was really the first time we stopped seeing ourselves as a production company and started being a creative agency. Since then, our clients have started viewing us as their “one-stop shop” for all things creative, and our team has a much better understanding of the company’s combined capabilities.

During this process, we also learned that our success depends as much on our employees as the network of people around us. Our clients know that we can connect them with the help they need, even if it’s outside our capabilities. For example, we don’t do media buying in house, but we have trusted partners that work with us on traditional and digital media-buy projects. That means our clients can come to INNOVATIVE first, knowing that we’ll deliver results.

INNOVATIVE has always been a passionate team of problem solvers.

Our president Conrad has many stories and analogies he likes to share, but I think this one describes who we are best: “Some people build a deck to throw a party, but we would rather throw a party to build a deck.”

Essentially, that means we want to make the work as collaborative and enjoyable as possible. We’re always game to jump in and help someone out. We work with our clients to deliver results. We want as many people as possible bringing ideas to the table, and that kind of environment makes the work fun.

Our long-time partners will often schedule a meeting with us—not because they have a specific project, but because they want to talk through their problems. From there, our team starts brainstorming solutions, working together to identify the best way to get at the root of the issue.

And when it comes to figuring out technical problems, I’d put our team up against anyone. We’ve figured out the math behind projecting animations onto buildings, same as we reverse-engineered a video system built by someone who went out of business. INNOVATIVE has proven again and again that we can work through the complex and the chaotic to create something amazing.

Our other owner, Terry, also says: “Nothing extraordinary happens between the hours of 9 and 5.” Granted, INNOVATIVE has accomplished some pretty remarkable things during normal work hours. But his words really ring true when you look at all the long nights and weekends we put into our work. Our team has always been willing to work late to make sure our projects are the best they can be. Whether that gets done by EOD or long after midnight, the point is that INNOVATIVE takes the time to do it right.

As with everything in life, our company has seasons—some are busy, while others have more time to breathe. Some months, everything gets done during the day. Other months, I feel like I can’t remember what it’s like to leave on time. But over the past 30 years, we’ve come to appreciate the seasons as they come (or at least I have.) Some of our funniest stories and greatest memories have come from those long overnight vigils, and I wouldn’t change it for the world.

After 30 years, there’s one thing I know for sure.

Looking back over the past 30 years, the one constant has been change. INNOVATIVE succeeded time and time again because we were willing to take chances—to jump in the deep end and adapt to the unexpected. We embraced even the most ambitious projects and built a reputation for pulling off the impossible.

As proud as I am of the last 30 years, I am equally excited to see where INNOVATIVE goes in the future. I cannot imagine what our work will look like a year from now, let alone another thirty. But what I do know is that our core values will always stay the same. We will still be a powerhouse team of problem solvers. We’ll still be a second home for our employees and a vocal advocate for our community. No matter where we go next, I don’t doubt that we’ll keep on creating and storytelling every day. Because that’s what it means to be INNOVATIVE.

Cheers, everyone—to 30 years and 30 more!