What’s the ‘Big Idea’?

The big idea. It’s what most ambitious agencies and clients strive for when developing their communications platforms. Both share the responsibility, but each side often plays the blame game when the work fails to produce the desired results.

Here, three marketing directors discuss the creative process and what it took to get new brand messages into the marketplace:

Nicorette: “Quitting Sucks”

Smoking cessation campaigns face unique challenges. Combating an addictive habit that has complex physical and psychological roots, the products must become trusted allies in an often long, difficult process. To create that critical consumer connection for Nicorette, Amardeep Kahlon, marketing director, behavioral sciences at GlaxoSmithKline Consumer Healthcare, worked with TBWA/Chiat/Day, to introduce a new platform for the brand late last year: “Quitting sucks. Nicorette makes quitting suck less.”

The communications needed to address powerful emotional issues faced by the target audience. There are often intense feelings of hopelessness that accompany the arduous quitting process that often requires repeated attempts — an average of eight or nine — to achieve lasting success.

Finger-wagging and scare tactics common in anti-smoking messages did little to encourage quitters.

“Smokers know all the rational reasons not to smoke,” says Kahlon. “It’s an emotional issue. It’s about relating to them and being honest and realistic about how you can help.”

The creative team, led by Mark Figliulo, CCO of TBWA/Chiat/Day in New York, devised a campaign that positioned the brand as an invaluable tool to minimize cravings and withdrawal symptoms. The work used direct language and a sense of humor to show how Nicorette can help.

TBWA introduced the “Suckometer,” a fictional device that measures the “suck level” of a smoker’s craving. In one commercial, the device, placed in the passenger seat next to a driver, beeps with a red-light warning when the motorist catches sight of someone smoking. In another, for mini lozenges, a man can only focus on his cravings even though there is a shark attacking his arm.

Taking an approach unique to the category did not come without its risks. “Big ideas are going to be more challenging,” says Kahlon, but the senior marketing and communications teams at the pharmaceutical company “started with the fact that we needed a breakthrough” idea and shepherding it through corporate channels so its public debut wasn’t difficult, he says. “It was grounded in the right insight and strategy.”

So far, “We’ve grown the business by three percent in a category that is flat,” says Kahlon. “It’s a really good initial sign of success.”

Allstate: “Mayhem”

Mark LaNeve, who joined Allstate last year from General Motors, was new to the insurance company when he challenged Leo Burnett, Chicago, to develop fresh ideas. The company had relied on actor Dennis Haysbert to relay the brand’s protection positioning since 2003. But with a mandate from CEO Tom Wilson to innovate, LaNeve pushed Burnett and its CCO Susan Credle, who was also relatively new to her job, to explore different avenues. They decided that adding another layer of communications could go a long way toward growing the company’s business.

Competitor Geico has been following a multiple ad-campaign strategy for years. This year, Allstate adapted a similar strategy. With an increased media budget, Allstate introduced “Mayhem,” with actor Dean Winters (pictured) personifying various unexpected reasons people need their car insurance to come through. In one spot, he sports a pink headband and hand weights as he power walks through a suburban neighborhood to show how easily a driver can be distracted and cause an accident. In another, he declares, “I’m a typical teenage girl” while driving a pink SUV; he pays more attention to his mobile device than the road and ultimately crashes into a car.