Tag Archives: Big ideas

Energy trumps talent: tips from Lord Jeffrey Archer

The other weekend, a TV show called The Bottom Line featured a good interview with Lord Jeffrey Archer. You can see a video of the interview here.
It’s a useful way to spend 22 minutes. But if you haven’t got 22 minutes to spend, please take away these words of his (from around the 8:22 mark):

If you have energy and no talent, you’ll still be alright.
If you have energy and talent, then you’re really lucky.
If you have no energy, but you have talent, you could be in a lot of trouble.

The difference between an idea and an execution.

A friend, and one of Australia’s leading advertising recruiters, Esther Clerehan, often answers questions from aspiring art directors and copywriters on her blog. Recently, she was asked, ‘What is the difference between an idea and an execution?’

This question does come up a lot, and a lot of people still wrestle with it. So, for what it’s worth, this is how I use to explain it to AWARD School students:

Before you learn about advertising ideas, it’s easy to jump straight into the execution. After all, the execution is usually the tangible part that we see or hear. It’s the finished ad.
But a big step forward in your understanding of advertising comes when you learn to divorce the execution from the idea. You can look behind the shiny surface and see the thinking to how the ad was actually constructed.

When people refer to ‘the execution’, they’re referring to the more detailed specifics of an ad. However, when you take a step back and ask yourself, ‘what is the idea behind this execution?’, you’re able to get a broader view of what it is you’re saying.

I know this can be a bit confusing so to illustrate what I’m talking about, here are some examples below:

jason donovanJason Donovan billboard

If you’re not familiar with this campaign, you can take a look at a brief case study here.
Here is what the proposition on the brief probably was:
Virgin Mobile has low-cost call and text rates.

Here’s what the idea is:
These rates are so low, you can even afford to waste your phone credit by making prank calls.

The execution is:
Create a situation where Jason Donovan’s mobile phone number is leaked to the public.

bic pen Jimi Hendrix

The proposition on the brief probably was:
With Bic Permanent Markers, the writing never comes off.

The idea is:
Let’s simply show writing that has been around for a long, long time.

The execution is:
A Jimi Hendrix fan who once had her breast autographed by the now-deceased musician.


The proposition on the brief probably was:
The new Golf GTi  has loads of new features.

The idea is:
The GTi is an iconic car, and now it’s even better. Let’s illustrate that by showing how great things can be improved on.

The execution is:
A classic film scene, re-made to feature more modern music and dance styles.

Why is it important to distinguish between an idea and an execution, anyway?
If you can show that your idea is not just a one-off execution, it’s more valuable.
You can show that it can be executed a number of different ways. That’s important if you want to run a campaign idea for an extended time, which in turn helps build equity into a brand.
An idea is also important because it means you’re not back to ‘square one’ if something in the execution goes wrong.
For example, if the Virgin client absolutely hated Jason Donovan, you could find another celebrity. Or if the use of a celebrity is beyond the budget, you could execute the idea as cab drivers or pizza delivery guys protesting against prank calls. You could have the entire campaign look like a public service announcement, if you wished.

The important thing is that ‘big ideas’ can usually be executed in a number of different ways.
Depending on who you’re presenting to will dictate how much you have to execute the idea to illustrate what it is you’re talking about. Some people tend to see ideas better than others. Many people get caught up on executional stuff (like someone saying, ‘I don’t like the colour of the guy’s shirt’ or ‘Can we make the logo bigger?’).

Is your big idea a one-off?

$27 car rentalHere’s a picture of a shop near my office. Three weeks ago it was a Lamborghini dealership. Now it’s a place that rents small cars for $27 a day. I reckon that might be a pretty good reflection of where things are at. It seems most successful business models now drive profit through volume rather than margin. And I’m relatively sure there are more people looking to rent a car for $27 a day rather than buy one for a lazy half million dollars.
Look at the businesses making all the money – supermarkets, Google, telcos, the list goes on. They all sell lots of product for a small margin rather than fewer products at a large margin (perhaps with the exception of Apple, who seem to be doing both margin and volume).

And that brings me to advertising agencies. Most advertising agencies deliver a very bespoke product. It’s an idea or advertising campaign designed to suit a particular client’s needs. Even if it can be used to carry another client’s message, it’s contractually obligated not to do so. This means all the work  you do in delivering a product (campaign or idea) amounts to one sale.
So rather than make one product and sell it thousands, perhaps millions, of times  we make one product and sell it once. (Actually, it’s lower than once when you consider the ideas and campaigns we work on that the client doesn’t buy.)

Then on top of this, you have other forces working against the ‘way it used to be’. The internet has conditioned us not to pay for stuff anymore. It’s given rise to the Fremium model, and things like Fiverr.
Sure, in most cases, you get what you pay for. But it seems people don’t like paying for the art of a Lamborghini when they think they can do the same with a car for $27.
So what about you and that big idea you’re working so hard on? Are you only going to sell it once?

Are you brave enough for ‘the next big thing’?

If you work in advertising, you’ve probably sat in one of those meetings where the client has said that they want a <insert the latest big advertising success here>.

In recent times, this comment has taken the form of ‘We want a Share a Coke’.

Before that, it was ‘We want an Old Spice Guy’.

And before that, it was ‘We want a Best Job’.

I’m sure you get the idea.

However, it reminds me of a friend’s old tweet, which read ‘Most clients want a big, original idea – and three examples of where that idea has worked before’.

This, of course, is a paradox. If something has been done before, it’s not original. And advertising is a business where originality is rewarded with a customer’s interest and engagement.

The truth is, the campaigns mentioned here are the product of great ideas that simply would not have existed without the belief and bravery of the marketers behind them.

For a moment, let’s pretend that none of the ideas above had been done.

With the Coke idea, you’re choosing to make the product brand name considerably smaller and/or replace it with the name of customers. Then there are the logistics of actually printing the new packaging and getting it to market via numerous supply channels.

With the Old Spice Response campaign, the idea is to create on-the-run pieces of film that are each aimed solely at one individual. So in essence, multiple TV ads without media spend, approvals or buttoned-down pre-production meetings, that are aimed at an audience of one.

And with the Best Job In The World, where glossy pictures are the category norm, you’re looking at reducing your ad to the classifieds.

Now, how many marketers can put their hand on their heart and say, ‘Yep, I would buy that’.

There are plenty of things that make these ideas either too hard or too risky. But they say fortune favours the brave. Or, as General Patton said, ‘Courage is fear holding on a minute longer’.