the not too distant past, creative agencies coined the term ‘the big idea’ as
the Holy Grail solution to a client brief.

There’s no question that great
creative concepts are worth their weight in gold, partly due to tighter than
ever budgets. And I’ve worked with agencies over the years where fantastic
amounts of resource were focused on coming up with the next big idea. 

Recently, I sat down with our Creative Director, Don Smith, who was previously employed by the legendary HHCL, and he guided me through the various reasons why, in his opinion, there really is no such thing as a big idea, only good ideas.

Good ideas have two characteristics:

  1. They are relevant in that they wholly answer the brief, they solve a problem or present additional value to the audience.
  2. Good ideas are, more often than not, unexpected. They are usually delivered in a way that is memorable and engaging, but beyond the obvious. 

Good ideas are more than just a concept. And they are achieved by combining experience with an idea that will answer a client brief while giving it the best possible chance of commercial success. 

The industry is changing

Don’s main point was what makes it a big idea anyway? Is it the ambition of the concept, the scale of the production or the hyperbolic difference between the proposition and it’s eventual expression?

Often, it just seems to be the jargon used to cover the fact that many creative directors cannot define a strong enough criteria for measuring the output of their teams or the validity of the creative concept to the client.

Clients are after results, not ideas. Any creative concept has to deliver on the objectives set in the brief. So if all you have is a big idea, but you can’t actually prove the delivery of results versus concept, how do you ensure your clients are getting what they’re after?

Build it from the ground up

So how do you maximise your chances of success by creating ideas that are still rooted in achieving end results? Both Don and I agreed that it’s all about selecting the right people, with a diverse skillset and sufficient differentiation in background, and get them around the table.

This will allow you and your team to look at the brief from a variety of angles and could even allow you to find an unexpected and but very relevant response to the brief.

Don’t just focus on creative, pull strategy and planning and your technical team into the mix too, right from the start. They are all creative people in their own right, and when you’re pitching to win you can’t underestimate the value they may add to your great idea.

It’s not about being perfect, it’s about sticking to the brief

Then you will need to take the creative ideas generated by your team and break them down to measurable units.

Will they meet the objectives? Will they motivate the audience? Will they provoke the necessary action or interaction? Will they stand out from the competitive set?

(It’s worth noting that it’s almost impossible to find an idea that fits every requirement of the brief. And quite often a good idea can expose flaws in the brief. So it’s important to have some flexibility, and be open minded to improvements at every stage in the process.)

At the end of the day I realised that there really is no big idea, it’s more the right idea combined with excellent delivery. An idea is as big as the results it achieves.

The key is to be transparent, make ideas simple, creative and challenging and, most importantly, make the results tangible.

Or as Don says, look for the Relevant Unexpected.