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IHAVEANIDEA.ORG > articles >  A Good Idea Can Come From Anywhere. But Not Just Anyone Can Come up With a Good Idea.

A Good Idea Can Come From Anywhere. But Not Just Anyone Can Come up With a Good Idea.

Posted on October 10, 2011 and read 5,862 times

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chrisbaylis A Good Idea Can Come From Anywhere. But Not Just Anyone Can Come up With a Good Idea.Chris Baylis
Tribal DDB Amsterdam

As a creative, have you ever been asked, where do you get your ideas from? Here’s an answer you can cut and paste next to a picture of a cock and balls to create a handy anti-luddite flyer. It shall read: “First I consume loads of books from fiction to behavioural economics, then I watch loads of films from all over the world, I play video games sometimes, I also do the odd writing course, I take photographs a lot, I read a lot of magazines and blogs then I forget it all and sit down with a pen and paper and think about the problem at hand. Oh, I also surround myself with really smart people, work across loads of different clients and projects and give myself the time to make new connections and new mistakes.”

There are two halves to the answer, the cock and the balls. I’m the cock, the person I have trained myself to be (people can vouch for this) and the other half is the balls, the agency, the support on which I work. I like to think that I’ve got big balls, i.e. a great agency, behind me.

Why the inflammatory analogy (no pun intended)? Because creatives are a tad pissed off right now. The way they work is under threat. From the client tissue session through to UGC content, it seems anyone can come up with an idea. Well, as Superman said, “Shut up, or you’ll get a slap.”

Cropping up are various organisations and schemes aimed at replicating the agency model, boiling it down to it’s bare essentials and helicoptering this into a client’s building. (And we’re not talking table football and Friday beers). No, apparently if you bring in a couple of freelancers, you know, creative types with beards and trainers and stuff, you can have your own little creative agency in the corner of your office. I’m not going to publicise the talent brokers involved because it will just encourage them, but let’s call them Fisher-Price Adland.

You can hear the sound of client palms on client foreheads (hopefully their own) saying, “Why didn’t we think of this sooner? Our own little agency, populated with creative Lilliputians. We can feed them on crusts and in return we will get pure creative gold.” You never know, it could work a treat. The same as if I bought a field and then asked a couple of brick layers to build me London’s Gherkin – it could turn out nice. Fisher-Price Norman Foster Partners. But the chances are I will end up with a load of old bollocks. More likely, I’d actually hire an architect and a construction company who knew what they were doing.

Here’s a better one: what if I decided to ask the general public to design me a house. We all live in houses, don’t we? I’ve lived in one for years, how hard can it be to design a house? Come on, it’s easy – you know, windows, doors and one of those other things … what’s it called? A roof!

Peperami ad anyone? Remember when they took a ten-year-old, tried and tested strategy and decided to go direct to the masses with their take on a TV spot? In the end, the contest was won by industry professionals – which meant the client got free ideas, no agency fees and they got to play Creative Director. And as we all know, that’s the easy fun bit – you just look at loads of rough drawings, stroke your chin like a plumber and take a bit of idea “A” and cobble it together with idea “B.” Right? Which brings me on to the tissue session.

Now I have to be careful here. After all, we have clients who like tissue sessions and are good at them. They co-create, listen, collaborate and know what they are talking about. They are the brand experts, we’re the marketing and ad professionals and hey-ho – we come up with great work together. We all seem to understand that good ideas can come from anywhere, but not just anyone can come up with good ideas. That’s what the agency is for. But friends have told me about clients who treat the tissue session like a megalomaniacal film director with a cast of thousands to herd around. They have even been seen sporting a monocle and carrying a riding crop. Strategy becomes interchangeable with storyboards and before we know what’s happened, it’s like that episode of the Simpsons when Homer was allowed to design his own car. (It had two capsules – one for kids, and one for grown ups and a cup holder big enough to hold 3 litres of coke.)

Homer Simpson should not be allowed to design his own car, because although he may have driven one for years and he may be the target audience; he’s not a car designer. Car companies are full of experts who are good at designing and making cars. Good ad agencies are full of people who have been doing advertising, marketing and service design for a long time. We are self consciously aware of staying in front, changing with the market, mixing up teams beyond copy and art to create the right combinations needed for the current marketing mix. We learn from every project and then cross-pollinate to make sure we are as innovative as possible for all our clients. We spend our free time filling up with inspirational things, we work weekends because we care, we tune our cultural radars to our clients’ needs so we are always detecting what will work for them, and partnering with them so we can do our jobs and help our clients be as successful as possible in theirs.

Remember, the agency model exists for a reason: so when the client asks for great ideas, that’s what they get.

  • Mark Kenny

    Alex Melvin, RIP, hated the term tissue session. He described it as

    A meeting before the official meeting where the briefest of ideas and
    concepts are presented to the client to see what they like.

    It’s an ‘ad-verb’ coined in the mid-eighties by big agency ad’-execs’ couldn’t think of an idea!

  • That'sRich

    I’ve always said Copywriter is the most un appreciated job (well, after people who clean toilets, somebody give those guys a raise). Everybody can write, right? My kid does it and he’s 3 1/2. Maybe that’s why we have such better sounding titles now. And this new wave is just an extension of that to now not appreciate the agency itself… well.




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