The Big Idea. Dead or Alive?


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Lecture I am giving to an introductory creative class. I think it's a good thing to learn some history and have a frame of reference about how we got where we are today. This frames up the Big Idea from the days of Ogilvy and Lois to how creative ideas have and need to evolve.

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The Big Idea. Dead or Alive?

  1. CM417.19 The big idea. Dead or alive? Edward Boches, Professor of Advertising
  2. What is a big idea?
  3. "You will never win fame and fortune unless you invent big ideas. It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night." David Ogilvy
  4. A big idea can change popular culture. It can transform our language. It can launch a new business. It can turn the world upside down.
  5. What do you think? Are these big ideas? Are they still relevant? Can these kinds of ideas live on?
  6. Historically, there were different kinds of (big) ideas.
  7. Ideas that were totally contrived.
  8. Ideas that defined the essence of a product.
  9. Ideas that created a persona for a brand.
  10. Ideas that defined a vision.
  11. Ideas that framed the competition.
  12. Ideas that gave a brand its soul.
  13. Ideas that made you pay attention to boring categories.
  14. What did they have in common?
  15. Part of cultural landscape Everyone knows them Endured the test of time Traditional advertising content
  16. But the Internet has changed everything.
  17. Consumer is in control New media landscape -- fragmented, real time, mobile Few collective experiences Attention is the new scarcity
  18. “The big idea is dead. There are no more big ideas. Creative leaders should go for getting lots and lots of small ideas out there. Stop beating yourself up searching for the one big idea. Get lots of ideas out there and then let the people you interact with feed those ideas and they will make it big.”
  19. So what do we do?
  20. Have lots of little ideas.
  21. CRAIGSLIST The first step will be a post on Craigslist of the White home. The post will be packed with details fans of the show will recognize. Although hashtags don’t work on Craigslist, we’ll include the phrase “Breaking Bad” so the post will turn up in searches. The agent number is connected to a Google Voice mailbox, where a recording reveals who’s behind the post and invites people to leave messages.
  22. Create products where the ideas are baked in.
  23. Build utility and become a brand as service.
  24. personal data, improved performance uses foods you already have
  25. Crowdsource participation.
  26. Experiment all the time.
  27. Do things that create and yield content.
  28. But does that mean the big idea is actually dead?
  29. IBM Smarter Planet (a belief, a purpose, a behavior, advertising)
  30. American Express Small Business Saturday (a movement a program, incentive, annual event, content, utility, social media, advertising)
  31. Red Bull Stratos (an event, a collective moment, social media content, spread and shared, viewed after the fact)
  32. John Lewis (advertising, story telling, engagement, sharing, and an event that can be used to build collective awareness)
  33. Part of cultural landscape Everyone (or the right people) knows them Endure the test of time OR at least dominate the moment Traditional advertising content plays a role
  34. Messages > Experiences, content Bought attention > Earned attention Passive consumer > Involved consumer Art and copy > Internet and technology
  35. Maybe we should re-write the definition of a big idea.
  36. Stop looking at the classic funnel from this angle.
  37. Advertising
  38. Look down from the top. It’s a maze, with a very circuitous route to the bottom.
  39. advertising environmental search applications experiential mobile social media WoM
  40. Let's for a moment argue that what made the Big Idea big was that it became omnipresent. That it reached the masses. That it was embodied in a single tagline (Just Do It) or image (Marlboro man) that lived for many years across many media. That it was primarily a message. Designed or conceived only to get you to notice a brand or product, pay attention to it, perhaps like it and hopefully buy it. If everyone saw the ad at the same time you did, and approved of its message or embraced the concept, you, as a consumer had permission to buy that product.
  41. Those days may be gone. The Internet, technology and the proliferation of media may have changed it. The fact that our attention can rarely be bought, even if we watch a lot of TV and video, that it has to be earned, that it turns to multiple screens and platforms to focus and that it quickly moves on certainly suggests we need new kinds of ideas.
  42. No, we don't need digital ideas. (Watch out for that label.) What we need are ideas for a digital world. We need ideas that are.... interesting, shareable, usable, customizable. Consumers, if not also producers, are at the least a powerful distribution channel. The real challenge is that we need amazing ideas no matter what size they are.
  43. Which means we need our small ideas to be big -- if big means something that catches your attention (even a utility has to be noticed before it gets used), fills a genuine need; makes you feel great about using (or reading or engaging); and whose brilliance inspires you to pass it on.
  44. Go forth and make amazing shit. And lots of it.