Finding The Big Creative Idea

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Creative reviews are known to be one of the most fun, yet also most stressful meetings.

Junior brand leaders often want to be included in these meetings. After all, many would-be brand managers dream of working on new ad campaigns.

But once you’ve attended a few of these reviews, you quickly learn how stressful and even contentious they can be.

Team members often debate executional details as if their life depends on it. In reality, many of those details don’t matter when trying to land on a big new campaign idea.

So, what does matter? What makes an idea a big one?

Forget scripts and storyboards. To identify a big campaign idea, you must clearly define four key aspects.

If you are the one presenting the ideas, be sure to include this level of detail. If you are evaluating or receiving ideas, be sure you ask about these aspects and focus the discussion accordingly.

1) Can you describe the idea in a single sentence?

If you can’t describe the big creative idea in a single sentence, you either don’t have an idea or you haven’t thought enough about it.

If you truly have a big idea, you should be able to boil it down to a single, succinct description. A few examples:

  • Show famous athletes sweating Gatorade fuel in intense competition
  • H&R Block tax pro shows you surprising examples of how much money is being left behind in refunds
  • A Dove sketch artist reveals to women how they describe themselves (with all their flaws), contrasted with how others see them (beautiful)

In all of these examples, the core of the big idea is clearly identified.

2) How does the idea dramatize the benefit/key takeaway?

Usually the dramatization is a visual representation of the benefit or key takeaway that was outlined in a creative brief—it’s a single visual that immediately gets the message across and illustrates the core idea.

In some cases, the dramatization might simply be verbal or through sound. This would be the case if a campaign were planned for radio or some other non-visual media.

From our three examples above, dramatizations/key visuals could be:

  • Gatorade – an illustration of Michael Jordan sweating orange liquid
  • H&R Block – an airplane dropping bags of money out of the sky
  • Dove – a side-by-side illustration of an “ugly” vs. a beautiful sketch of a woman

Each of these single images quickly get the point across.

3) What are the key copy words?

You should have a few key copy words that support the idea and quickly communicate the takeaway. This is often referred to as a tagline or selling line, but it could also be an example headline.

Again, from our three examples:

  • Gatorade – Is it in you?
  • H&R Block – Get your billions back!
  • Dove – You are more beautiful than you think

4) Is the idea extendable?

You don’t want to latch onto a clever piece of creative only to find that it wears out quickly and doesn’t lend itself to variation.

When an idea is presented, it should come with specific ideas of how it might vary over time and/or how it will appear in different contexts/lengths/media.

So, if it’s a TV-first idea, you might want examples of how it could extend to print or digital. Or in the case of our Gatorade example, you might identify other athletes and sports that could be represented in the campaign.

Drive Meaningful Discussion

All four of the above questions are designed to help define, clarify, and improve creative work and improve the creative process. If ideas are outlined in this way, it becomes much easier for the team to focus on the big ideas and have meaningful discussion on what should advance to subsequent rounds.

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