bigidea

In the age of digital and social media, and in the age of realtime marketing, what matters more? The big idea or the smaller idea and execution?

Many digital agencies have been experimenting with new ways of working to try to get at those ideas and executions that a traditional agency couldn’t dream of. I was working at Organic when we rolled out the “Three Minds” initiative, meaning that for every brainstorm, we needed to have at least three people from three disciplines in the room. This is similar to what Big Spaceship has been trying to do by throwing together teams of creatives, strategists, technologists and production.

Digital agencies think that this is a point of differentiation. They think that online, social and viral are so complex that they need all this brainpower to figure it out. What ends up happening when you put a technologist and/or producer into a room with creatives? Executions. It’s a natural and inevitable thing. And I believe it’s a distraction from getting to a better and bigger idea.

I believe that when you add in people whose jobs are to make things (technologists build, producers produce, etc.) too early in the creative process, before the idea is baked, you shortchange the idea. The idea becomes smaller and less compelling.

Creative teams go there all the time too. Too often do I hear an art director or copywriter say “OK, so the idea is a game within a banner.” No. That’s not the idea. That’s an execution. What’s the idea?

People may argue that the mass audience doesn’t care about the idea; all people will remember is the commercial, billboard or Facebook app (no one remembers banners). I disagree. People remember the campaign which was essentially that story dreamt up one late night in a conference room by a creative partnership.

In the traditional advertising agency model, the two-person copywriter and art director partnership is designed to tell stories. The idea isn’t a TV spot, a print ad or a billboard. The idea isn’t a banner, a microsite or a Facebook app. The idea is a story. It’s a story with a hook, that draws people in, makes them feel something and act on that. And as humans, we love stories.

I believe that for digital agencies to compete with the traditional ones, they need to be better at developing compelling ideas. A big traditional shop can always farm out a digital execution, but digital agencies can’t farm out the idea generation.