Advertising agencies have always craved for the precious Big Idea: The point of differentiation which would lead them to award or client winning. The treasure hunt is fierce since creatives never speak about small and negligible ideas. And so the Big Idea is a single-minded message that could run across a handful of media channels – outstanding, disruptive and memorable. If it were big enough, then it would be rather neat and straightforward one-suit-all-channels-strategy.
Much like Hemingway’s fisherman, who commenced his journey in the sea with the only aim to come back with a really Big Fish, advertisers place the Big Idea on a pedestal and chase it as if it is the Holy Grail. When ultimately, the fisherman caught a truly big marlin, on his way back to shore, sharks ate his catch and he docked his boat with the marlin’s skeleton left only.
When accounts discuss ideas with clients and then creatives fight for the bigness of their ideas with accounts and then competitors get to know about this certain creative twist that could turn the market upside down and eat our Idea like sharks ate The Marlin, are we left only with the Big Advertising idea skeleton during the brainstorming process?
Certainly, at least the skeleton of a big idea is also big.
But big became outdated. Also as an adjective it gives away quite limited information. It tells us nothing about quality or effectiveness or flexibility. Books are not judged upon their thickness. Otherwise, haikus would have been destined to fail.
Eastern philosophy also speaks of thin trees – they withstand the storms because they are able to bend over. Big idea is solid as an oak tree. It looks solemn but it’s not flexible enough. And how could one ignore agility in today’s fast world context?
When powers shifted to consumers through social media empowerment, big lost its greatness.
Attention span is scarce and should be deserved in social media channels. In the era of earned attention, still money can’t buy us customer’s love or long-term attention. Advertisers need another pair of ears – to be able to listen to the customer’s voice and respond with relevant and consistent creative strategy.
Once upon a time, David Ogilvy asked a question to determine how big the idea is:
‘Could it be used for 30 years?’
The only problem with this question is that now we need 30 small ideas for different communication channels to be able to keep up with the market not for 30 years but for a single one.
Long-term plans are obsolete, as they can’t survive in an innovative and fluid market.
Smart, relevant and flexible is the new big.