The Death of The BIG Idea?

By October 31, 2007

Joseph Jaffe is lampooning the sacred cows of the advertising industry again. Today he took aim at the “elusive and coveted BIG IDEA.” He refutes the notion that there is a singular BIG IDEA out there. His main points:

  • What a consumer thinks is a BIG IDEA may not be the same as what the marketer thinks
  • Everybody wants it yesterday PLUS no one wants to pay for it
  • Big ideas are equated to expensive ideas
  • Big ideas are similarly, full of hot air, fluff, inflated with self-importance, exaggeration and hyperbole

Instead, Jaffe claims that ideas are about potential. He says, “. . .the idea is a catalyst; a conduit; a means to an end…and NOT an end unto itself.” He suggests we should think of many small ideas, “capable of being internalized, understood and related to on an individual level.” It would be nice if he had provided some examples of this.

Small ideas are fine, if they’re all working from the same strategy and not a mishmash of executions and messages. In some cases small is the correct approach. But it’s difficult to discount such BIG IDEA successes as BMW’s The Hire film series, Audi’s The Art of the Heist, Stunning Nikon, etc. Maybe we should still reach for the stars with our feet on the ground?

So what do you think? Is the BIG IDEA best way to succeed? Or has the time come to think more on an individual level?

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KeithB November 1, 2007

The answer for most things is usually somewhere between the two extremes and depends upon the circumstances. But that’s not fun or controversial to say now is it?

Geico immediately springs to mind for me. Rather than having just one singular point of focus, they were willing to throw several wildly different ideas out at the same time to see which ones would resonate the most:

-The Gecko
-The celebrity narrators
-“I’ve got good news . . . I just saved a bunch of money by switching my auto insurance to Geico.”
-The stupid Youtube-like clips leading to “there may be better ways to spend 15 minutes online”
-The Cavemen

Granted, those all primarily TV-focused ventures with the backing of a major media budget. But there’s no reason the same thinking can’t scale or translate to other areas as well. We all do A/B testing for other facets of our clients’ marketing. The same approach can be utilized on the broader strategy of a campaign as well.

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