Idea Season

Eight months in and we’ve reached my favorite time of the year. Not because of football, cooler temps or falling leaves, but because it’s officially IDEA season. Everyone is starting to put together marketing plans for 2017. We’re reviewing our work from 2016, evaluating what worked and what didn’t. Determining the marketing investments that brought the most return and identifying those efforts that were wasted. Everything we learn from this exercise serves to inform what we do for 2017. And that, my friend, is where the fun begins.

It’s time to come up with IDEAS.

Big ideas, small ideas,
Good ideas, bad ideas.
Smart ideas, dumb ideas,
Sane ideas, mad ideas.

It sounds a bit like a Doctor Seuss rhyme, but this is the heart of advertising: the search for The Big Idea. It’s why we do what we do. It’s how we charge what we charge. It’s our art, our science, our passion.

How good you are at coming up with ideas will make or break you in this business. And the ballsy part is, in order to get to the Big Idea, you have to go through some real stinkers. This is the most exciting part of the agency process. The part where we (1) identify that one unique point that will resonate with our target audience and (2) figure out how to communicate that point in the most memorable and engaging way.

The first part is about research and insight. Knowing our target audience and thinking through what makes them tick. It’s one part psychology, two parts of gut instinct, a heaping tablespoon of collaboration and a dash of wisdom. This is when client and agency folks examine the brand’s past, comb through its competition and attempt to project its future. Together, we figure out the most riveting insight that will inspire our audience. Then, the second part — the creative process — begins.

This is the stuff your agency does behind the curtains. We sketch. We write. We fill post it notes. We cover the walls with different ways to best communicate our approved insight to your target audience. And eventually, when the room is filled and the creative juices are spent, we start removing the ideas that are flawed. If it’s not dead on strategically – no matter how great it is – it goes. If it doesn’t make you feel something – it’s just a statement of some sort – it’s out. If it’s not feasible within time or budget constraints, it’s dead to us.

This process can be painful for creatives. After all, you just gave birth to what you think is a brilliant idea and it gets cut down in seconds because it’s a tad off strategy. It can get a little upsetting. But we have to be relentless about this. Our clients need an effective solution to their marketing challenges. And it’s our job to provide them. We can’t waste time pursuing ideas that won’t effectively solve their marketing problem.

It takes a big imagination to come up with enough ideas to get you to The Big Idea. And it takes guts to share really off-the-wall ideas with your peers. But you have to . . . because one little germ in that crazy thought of yours might spark something BIG in someone else. So, every day, safely tucked behind those agency walls, we cast our flimsy lifejackets of pride aside and dive straight into the deep end of the humiliation pool.

This is what we do as creatives. And now is when we do it.

So for the next couple of months, while others are watching football and chasing falling leaves, we’ll be drawing, writing, posting notes on the wall and tearing them down again. Let Idea Season begin!