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“They embraced it, and I became the agency’s first-ever Innovation Strategist.”

After a few years of doing strategy work at 360i, a digitally led agency, I began to see a distinct need for innovative, technologically-driven thinking in our process. Using the strategic thinking and presentation skills I gained from the Brandcenter, I crafted a proposal for a new Innovation Strategy role and with the support of a few key colleagues, presented it to the C-Suite. They embraced it, and I became the agency’s first-ever Innovation Strategist. I research, concept, and prototype ideas on a team that spans strategy, creative, and technology…similar to the way Brandcenter teams function across tracks.

The new group I helped form had been diving into physical-computing inputs when we got a brief from the Dana & Christopher Reeve Foundation. The brief was to “Ignite a conversation about the need for more accessible products for the 1 in 50 Americans living with paralysis” After speaking several of these individuals, we learned that technology had improved their lives in many ways – but, sadly, it rarely impacted recreation. These folks simply didn’t have a way to play with the kids in their family and in their lives.

My team combined innovative, assistive technology with popular toys outfitted with physical inputs to create “Adaptoys.” Adaptoys are normal children’s toys that can be used by anyone living with limited mobility. Now, people who are paralyzed for the rest of their lives can physically play baseball or race a remote control car with their children, grandchildren, or nieces and nephews.

Within a year of forming my new role and team, we earned three Cannes Lions, notably for the Adaptoys campaign, as well as work for Canon photography. I would have never been able to tackle that brief, nor even seen the need for the new role I had created, had it not been for the creative problem solving skills learned during my time at VCU.

-Fitz Maro, Senior Innovation Strategist at 360i, Ad Age 2016 “Creative You Should Know,” VCU Brandcenter experience design track, class of 2013