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Ideas vs. Creation

Posted on March 29, 2012 and read 4,435 times

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chrisbaylis Ideas vs. CreationChris Baylis
Tribal DDB Amsterdam

I have an idea for an article, but I haven’t got around to writing it yet. I thought about it. I put the title on a PowerPoint slide, made a few bullet points and put a pretty picture next to it. I then showed it to some people and talked about it quite a lot. Everyone said they thought it was a really good idea and that it would indeed make a nice article. I then sent it to the good folks at IHAVEANIDEA and they liked the title too. “What a good idea,” they said, “when are you going to write it?” “What, I have to write now?” I said, “But it’s such a good idea.”

Okay, the above scenario is ludicrous. But how many of us fall into this pattern in our agency lives? A talk by Gaston Biggio (Regional Creative Director, Ogilvy Latina) at the Dubai Lynx got me thinking. Then a friend who works for one of the big networks told me how nothing ever seems to get done at his agency and that all the effort goes into strategy, making decks and giving the client work they can show at the next internal meeting. But nothing actually gets produced.

I think we’ve all been there. In agencies, we often focus our attention in the wrong place. We are obsessed with ideas, ideas presentations and proving that the strategy works. We forget that the world rewards the doing, not the thinking. No one ever changed anything with a hundred-page PowerPoint deck. But we often go home with a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction because a client presentation went well. This shouldn’t feel like a conclusion, it should be just the beginning.

In Gaston’s presentation he points out that ideas are essentially passive; they don’t have the power to change anything. It’s the creation that matters.

How do we turn our ideas into creations? Gaston talks about ‘hacking’ the system and uses this handy definition of a hacker: “A hacker breaks into networks for profit.” It’s a nice way of looking at getting your ideas bought, isn’t it? In conversation with Gaston afterwards, he told me how ideas can be seen as viruses that need to infect client networks. Ideas need to spread throughout client organisations until they are bought; then they will become creations.

I couldn’t agree more. At Tribal DDB Amsterdam we have always thought that one of the most important parts of any idea is the name of the concept and the elevator pitch. Once you have a name that captures the thought, and a line that communicates the power of the idea, even the busiest client will get it. Only then will the idea gather momentum until it has become a creation. We have several cases in point: Philips ‘Wake up the Town’, KLM ‘Tile and Inspire’ and VW ‘Hitchhike with a Like’ – a name and an elevator pitch all in one for the new VW Beetle. Once you have infected the client organization, you then need to get stuff made.

Gaston uses a phrase that I also heard in Dubai from Droga5’s Ted Royer: “the mission.” What is the mission? The mission is not to see how many logos we can get on the bottom of a PowerPoint slide. Neither is the mission to sit around eating croissants arguing semantics over creative propositions. The mission is to change behaviour out there in the real world. That’s what we all aim to do. Of course there are objectives along the way in any mission. We have to capture clients’ hearts and minds with the power of an idea, but we then have to keep that idea intact as, for example, we defend the reason why musician ‘X’ is important, yet his brilliant but un-known cousin won’t quite give us the earned media we require.

This is also why agencies are important. I return to an earlier article I wrote last year about the rise of the virtual agency and creative networks. These may be capable of idea generation, but they don’t make anything. Within our agency we have User Experience (UX) people who think about, you’ve guessed it, the user experience. Not to mention a team of top designers who not only know how to bring brands to life, but also know how to make the work sticky and playful. And we have teams of producers who are not called producers for nothing. They get stuff done, they pick up the phone and call hard-to-reach people and convince them to come on board and invest a lot of time and personal energy into turning ideas into creations. Maybe we should just go the whole hog and call the production department the ‘making shit happen’ department. I think every award on the Tribal DDB shelves owes as much to the producer on that job as it does to the creatives who came up with the idea.

And on that bombshell, I’m going to get on, because I don’t know about you, but I’ve got stuff to create.

  • Stuart Watt

    “Begin with the end in mind” then Chris?  In my world I’m forever having to challenge people with the question – “so why are we discussing this?”.  It’s sometimes seen as a little direct but sure as hell makes shit happen…




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