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How to Make Sure You’re Onto the Winning Big Idea

Sometimes coming up with a ‘big’ idea in the advertising / marketing space in particular isn’t a problem. It’s making sure you choose the right one to achieve your goals.

I’ve been on both sides of this challenge; either so freakin’ enamored with my own fabulously radical idea that I kind of lose sight of the real objective or get so excited about someone else’s idea that I start spinning the objective to suit the idea.

So how do you mentally sift through the ideas on offer to find the one that’s truly going to achieve your goals – rather than getting snowed or snowing yourself into one that’s more ‘loud’ than big?

Here are a few things to consider:

1. Recognize that big idea ‘attributes’ and ’criteria’ are not the same thing

It’s one thing to recognize that you’ve got a big idea in front of you – but its another to establish whether its’ the RIGHT big idea. Before you brief anyone (yourself included), you should make sure you can discern between the two. A list of attributes will consist of things like; it changes the way people perceive or interpret, it creates an emotional connection, it reflects a changing mood, style, mindset or approach, it isn’t gimmicky.

But a list of criteria, while also adhering to the attributes, will be much more specific to the client objectives. It must reflect the brand sensibilities, it must work equally well across all channels. It must be dialogue-driven.

2. Challenge criteria

Often criteria will get dumped into a brief as opposed to being truly thought through as necessary or not. I’m always curious as to why some elements are considered crucial while others are not. So I recommend spending some time with your client or stakeholder and plain speaking around criteria. Ask “what does the idea REALLY have to do?” and “why – what will that help you to accomplish it?” and capture their thoughts. Not only can you give them a reality check in terms of what’s achievable, you can help them rethink choices if they’re off base.

Get them to agree to the final list and then work from that. Then they’ll have something concrete to judge ideas against, and you’ll have something to defend your ideas with if necessary. This can ensure that the right ideas are recognized for their ability to achieve goals – not just whether the clients ‘digs’ them.

3. Do the ‘Silly Putty’ test

You know how when you pull Silly Putty apart, it gets longer and longer and then starts to thin and sag in the middle before it finally breaks? Look at your criteria and imagine this is the last, best idea you’re ever going to come up with or be able to sell this client. Now start to pull on it. Imagine it in every possible media execution known to ad-kind. On-pack, social, shelf-talker, 30-second spot, street team-led guerrilla campaign, infomercial – you name it. Have some fun and let your imagination run wild. If the ideas get really thin and silly really quickly, it’s probably not quite right. If it’s a truly juicy big idea, your ideas should be elastic, allowing you to pull and extend them without ever getting sad and saggy.


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