Big Ideas Are Always Better

LAS VEGAS The big idea. How do you find it as part of a global agency, as a creative looking through portfolios, or as a client? Discussions at Adweek‘s 31st Creative Seminar here today addressed each of these issues.

John Hegarty, chairman and chief creative director of Bartle Bogle Hegarty in London, discussed ways to find ideas that can span cultures and countries, necessary in an increasingly global economy.

An idea that will work globally, he said, “captures the desire of a broad disparate group to experience a communal belonging.” He gave the example of the recent Live 8 concerts as an idea that can touch a wide range of people. Advertising agencies can do this, he said, by creating “anthems,” which “unite and inspire people behind a simple idea.” Creatives should work to create anthems and not “spectacles,” he said, which “dazzle the senses” but ultimately do not move people.

A way to avoid creating a “spectacle” is to make sure ads retain a human touch. Hegarty played clips of ads he thought did this well, including Wieden + Kennedy’s “Grrr” for the Honda diesel engine and BBH’s “Odyssey” for Levi’s, showing a couple running and breaking through walls.

“When a brand articulates a powerful unifying thought that touches basic human desires,” Hegarty said, “that global audience responds.

The search for big ideas in creative portfolios can be a challenging task. As nontraditional ideas gain prominence in the industry, but are difficult to convey in the traditional portfolio, how do recruiters and agency staffers find talent?

In a rollicking panel discussion moderated by VCU Adcenter managing director Rick Boyko, Dany Lennon of the Creative Registry; Mike Shine, executive creative director of Butler Shine & Stern in Sausalito, Calif.; creative director Jerry Gentile of TBWA\Chiat\Day in Playa del Rey, Calif.; and Robert Rasmussen, executive creative director of JWT in New York, discussed how they approached portfolios.

The panelists said they looked for big ideas rather than simply clever executions in portfolios.

“I’d rather see campaigns done in three completely different ways than to show 16 one-offs,” Gentile said. “We do so few ads at Chiat these days; it’s more about how many different ways can you touch this consumer.”

Calling on her experience as a recruiter, Lennon said that way of looking at portfolios was atypical.

“[The creatives on the panel] are the minority, not the majority, and that’s the biggest problem with books today,” she said.

Lennon also pointed out that Web sites are an increasingly useful tool for creatives to employ to get their work and portfolio noticed.

Rasmussen said he looks for originality. “I don’t want to see something I’ve already seen before,” he said.

Shine said time was a problem in evaluating books, especially ones with nontraditional ideas that might require some explanation.

“If something requires a page of copy, I’m probably not going to get through it,” he said.

Esther Lee, svp and creative director of Coca-Cola Co., discussed “What Clients Want.” Using Coke as an example, she discussed the challenges agencies and clients must face together in order to find a solution.

What Coke wants and needs, Lee said, is big, holistic ideas to counter slow growth and the lack of consumer loyalty.

“Innovation and creativity will determine our future,” she said.

Lee stressed the importance of integrated marketing communication that is integrated in its conception, not simply its execution.

“A powerful idea, creative or otherwise, changes the way we think about the world,” she said.

Important “rules of engagement” to create this big idea include making it multidimensional, multisensory and global. Campaigns should be thought of in a “Napoleonic way,” she said.

It’s important to think about consumers not as passive receivers, but as co-authors of a brand’s personality, Lee said.

“At the end of the day, we can’t just say to consumers you have to believe in us,” she said. “We need to create fair exchange for advocacy.”