Goodbye to the big idea, hallo everyday creativity?

by Nigel Hollis | February 13, 2019

Daren Poole, Global Head of Creative at Kantar, recently asked on Kantar’s Workplace what people thought of an article by Zac Martin, writing in Mumbrella, which tells us to not sweat the big idea. So, is the big idea dead, misunderstood, or as important as ever?

In his article Martin suggests that, rather than chasing an elusive big idea, advertisers find a consistent advertising formula that can highlight what their brand has to offer in a multitude of different ways. He suggests,

“Effective brands find new ways to say the same thing again and again.”

Martin cites advertising for Uber Eats that uses different scenarios and the mnemonic of a doorbell to highlight the brand’s fast delivery as an example and concludes,

“So instead of worshipping the big idea, maybe try briefing a long one.”

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The Uber Eats campaign may not be founded on a big idea, but it is founded on an idea that directly highlights what the brand offers. Right now, all the brand needs to do is make that offer memorable and salient to new customers in order to grow.

Martin also cites Snickers’ ‘You’re Not You When You’re Hungry’ as a campaign that found new ways to say the same thing in different ways. But, again, there is a single idea behind that campaign that ties back to what makes the brand meaningfully different. Call it an ad platform, a big idea, or whatever; without some way to affirm why the brand exists I suspect most advertising will remain ineffective no matter how consistent.

Daren’s question prompted Stéphanie Leix to post a link to an article by Nick Law, chief creative officer of Publicis Groupe and president of Publicis Communications, who argues that a fatuous insistence on the power of the big idea has allowed agencies to avoid embracing new media and technologies.

 He states (from the Italian by Google Translate),

“Change requires the creative community to become more passionate about the future than the past, to do things that are intelligently connected to the modern world and designed to be watched and interacted on mobile (the best version of the internet).”

However, I am not sure that the need to engage with modern world precludes the need a platform on which a mobile campaign is built. All the evidence from our digital pre-testing  and in-market assessment  finds that emotionally engaging creative that focuses attention on what the brand can do for potential users is more effective. Particularly when architecting a campaign to run across multiple channels and influence people at different points along their path to purchase a consistent idea is a must, as are easily identified brand assets.

But what do you think? Is it time to do away with the big idea? Please share your thoughts.

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