Tyranny of the Big Idea

Every once in a while, when the full moon is up and all my advertising friends are asleep, I have blasphemous thoughts. Do our mind-bending acrobatics we lovingly call ideas come across? Does originality actually matter for our audience? Can that elusive, fresh concept really survive a burning descent from outer space? Or does this newfound god go down in flames when entering the atmosphere under the very eyes of a NASA mission control comprised of clients and creatives? Is the Big Idea really big?

I can’t help but feel there’s a tendency to look for pure ideas and not so much for how these ideas could truly come alive. Sacred time and resources get injected into the first stage of an idea, that only goes on to hatch a rushed, orphan execution. Sometimes clients and creatives seem to engage in this strange dance on top of an idea in the hopes of invoking some sort of genie. Once summoned, this generous deity is expected to fix everything around it by granting some well-deserved wishes for both clients and creatives. But what never ceases to amaze is how consumers actually react not to the immortal spirit of concepting, but to the laical execution – great casting, ridiculous props, perfectly timed SFX and good-old storytelling.

So, are buffoons the guys who should be at the wheel? Probably no. But maybe philosophers and scientists shouldn’t be either. Should artifice be the standard and criteria? Uh, no. But it would be great to hit that right note just before the packshot, at least half the time. And maybe it’s refreshing to remember that historically, advertising has a lot more in common with the instinctive art (and business!) of the circus than some might admit. We’re a long way from P. T. Barnum’s campaign for the American circus that made OOH work, but entertaining audiences is still the name of the game. Are we producing “The Greatest Show on Earth”? Hopefully not just in festival season.

With agencies losing more and more influence these sharp craft skills might prove crucial for both brands and creatives in search of an articulated voice.

Not saying idea isn’t King. I’m wondering if we can afford to make execution less than Ace.


Mihai Costache, Group Creative Director, MullenLowe, Romania