Putting the cart before the horseThe death of the big idea in the digital worldpanos papadopoulos, november 2011
once upon a time in advertisingClients and agencies alike racked their brainssearching for the big idea.
the big ideaIt had to be original, engaging and BIG enough torun the 360 ̊marathon. It was the springboard ofevery great campaign. The golden fleece ofplanning. The mantra of every adman.
once you nailed it, it was smooth sailingCampaign planning was easy. Creative work would spring out effortlessly. Theprocess held the dual promise of happy clients and of awards galore.
the buzzwords of the timeContinuity, campaign coherence, consistent cross-media messaging.Campaigns were judged on flow and logical expression of the message acrosstouchpoints.
coherence was the name of the gameThe big idea was the compass. Creative executions at every touchpoint had topoint towards the campaign’s true north.
A world of one-way media. Creative and media planning revolved around aTVC. And the pinnacle was always the 360˚ campaign.that was then
this is nowSiphoning budget out of traditional channels and into digital.Creative use of technology.Social media is the playground of choice for agencies and marketeers alike.
agencies are jumping on the digitalbandwagonMastery of digital makes them look sharp, en vogue.
clients respond enthusiastically to digitalfireworksDigital charms clients. It’s media-cheap and looks impressive.Continuous technological change can coat a brand in coolness and promise –often falsely- instant success to a marketeer.
this is the “each day, something new” eraDigital mutates communication in speeds that make developments hard to follow.It’s “blink-and-you’ll-miss-it”. From one week to the next, cutting-edge becomesantiquated. And the geek-labs produce stuff that would put Pixar to shame.
selling innovation for innovation’s sakeIt doesn’t need to follow a brand logic or a campaign strategy. It doesn’t even need tomake much sense.As long as it scores high in the “WOW” scale, clients are happy.
galloping innovation brushes aside strategyAs a result, there is decreasing demand for Strategic Planners, who are beingreplaced by “Creative Technologists” (who are often little more than glorified ITspecialists).
consequently, coherence isdecliningBrands become increasingly schizophrenic, behaving traditionally in “old-school”channels and erratically in digital channels.
the big idea is disappearing from viewAfter all, a big idea used to serve as a frame of reference and compass. In adystopia where logic is in low demand, the big idea seems to have no role to play.
so, is the big idea a relic of the past?(correct answer = no)Are we past the need for logic and structure in communication?Not by a long shot.In this rapidly changing media environment, logic and structure carry even more weight.Brands that project themselves coherently will always have the advantage.
big idea revisited = connecting ideaThe big idea needs to be remodelled, to combine the traditional role of the big idea and atthe same time tick the boxes of the digital era.So, it needs to communicate in two ways:1. Connect the touchpoints, holding the communication edifice together.2. Connect people in the social space by being a sharp, provocative, socially-relevant conversation-starter.
putting the horse back where it belongsThe connecting idea can only work if it dominates gratuitous technologicalexhibitionism.
no more Dr Jekyll & Mr HydeDigital initiatives have to remain loyal and true to the connecting idea. After all,they should not be fireworks but should instead serve a higher purpose: that offuelling dialogue in the social space, while never betraying the brand.
the moral of this fableNo matter what you call it, no matter where you use it, you still need it.Fragmented communication, digital or not, is never a good thing, is it?
panos is a planner, fringe traveler and wannabefree firstname.lastname@example.org to kurt beren geiger and to stan gruel, as usual.