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Why Your Idea Sucks

Posted on July 13, 2010 and read 5,350 times

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shawnkingcredit Why Your Idea SucksShawn King
Partner, V.P., Chief Creative Officer
Extreme Group

I hear it all the time. In fact, I’ve even done it myself and just recently a good friend of mine said it to me over a beer: “man, I had this great idea the other day but I didn’t write it down.” Sounds like a pretty shitty idea to me…

Sorry, KF but you know I’ve done it too. What about this one: “Oh man, we had the best idea but the client wouldn’t go for it”. Sounds like a pretty shitty idea too.

Here’s the thing: coming up with an idea is a very small part of what we need to do to create great work. I look at this way – you should spend about 20% of your time coming up with an idea and the other 80% making it happen. We all know, if you don’t make it happen it doesn’t exist. It’s that simple. That’s how great ideas get shitty. I was thinking about this this morning on a flight and quickly wrote out the steps I believe are taken in order for something great to take shape. It looks something like this:

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The first thing I realized was that I may have left something out: luck. Or timing, or as some would say: the alignment of planets. Yeah, I think that should be in there somewhere, but that’s the one thing we’re not in control of. Everything else on the list we are.

At the very top of the list, you’ll see that I’m not sure if the need for an idea always comes before the idea. Actually I’m pretty sure that’s not always the case, so let’s keep that part loose. We know at some point there is a need for an idea or an idea presents itself and we find a need. Either way, that’s when the real work begins. And this is the place where I think most juniors struggle…

You have to sell it. And I’m pretty sure at this point I can say, this is often the hardest part. Sell the damn idea! Sell the shit out of it and spend a good amount of time preparing to do so. There are all kinds of tactics and techniques used to do this and in many ways, that’s what makes some agencies and agency folks better than others: their ability to sell the work. And if that’s not the hardest part, then keeping it sold is.

Between focus groups, internal politics, someone’s fear of the colour blue or what their spouse will think, this is always a challenge. You need to try as much as possible to keep the idea in tact. Yes, you need to be open to evolving it and making it better, but always try to stop it from getting worse.

Craft. I remember judging an awards show one time when I was faced with the best example of why craft is important. Two ads were on the table. Both were for a shopping centre. Both were for shopping there at Christmas. Both were the same idea. One was well crafted, the other not so much. Can you guess which one won an award? Me neither….

You have to deliver. If you can’t execute what you promised – forget it. Game over. And finally you have to flexible enough to monitor whether your idea is working and be ready to refine it and get it back out there. Gone are the days, of sending an idea out there and hoping for the best.

So, after all this, I’ve tried to make one point clear: the idea is not the only thing that matters, and isn’t always what makes brilliant agencies or agency employees. Now that I think about it, there really is only one thing that does: commitment.

Advertising or not – you really need to be committed to make great things happen. If you think about it, it really doesn’t matter what it is – your work, your relationships, your therapist – commitment. So, are you committed?






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