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It will always be about the big idea

By Ian Haworth, Chief creative officer

June 29, 2016 | 5 min read

Amid the ever-growing list of channels, technology and people at our creative disposal, there’s sometimes a propensity to forget that one thing remains a constant – the power of a great idea to drive that deep emotional connection between brands and today’s over bombarded and very savvy consumer.

Old Spice

The changing face of the idea

The understanding of what an idea is, is rapidly changing shape. This is largely due to consumers’ unwavering attraction to originality coupled with the rise of the hyper-connected world. At one time ideas were created to be expressed via a limited range of channels like print, TV and radio, offering a one way experience. Some still are and are executed brilliantly. But increasingly, today’s ideas need to be conceived much more as experiences to be interacted with, played with, shared and sometimes contributed to. These ideas need to flow seamlessly through multiple touchpoints and technologies. That can change the way an idea is conceived and viewed.

The brand as an experience

Really powerful ideas have the potential to give consumers a fully immersive and deeply rewarding brand experience. Look at the evergreen Nike+, this was a groundbreaking platform idea that completely delivers the brand promise through experience and participation. This is Nike doing it, not just saying it. The success of Under Armour is also built on its idea of consumer participation, by accepting idea submissions from the public. This brand is a pioneer when it comes to adopting great ideas from both inside and outside a company.

A personal favourite creative idea is still the Old Spice campaign from a while back. The brand started a conversation with its customers by taking their requests and quoting them in their online spots. This was genius and let the brand break into a completely new territory as an innovator. It changed the face of Old Spice.

A spark can come from anywhere

The catalyst for an idea can come from many different starting points; data, technology, insights, research etc or just raw instinct could spark a blinding idea. There are almost no limits to where an idea can go, technology has enabled what was once fantasy to become a reality. The manifestation of a great idea has massively evolved.

Ideas can go way beyond an ad

If you look at Volvo Life Paint, this is a brilliant example of an idea that’s more than a piece of comms. The idea is born straight out of the Volvo DNA, and creates a purpose way beyond the product itself. With today’s younger generations so geared towards purpose, brands now need to stand for more than just a product.

Ideas also need to have purpose

The Dove campaign for Real Beauty has a higher purpose than just selling soap. It stems from the idea that beauty should be a source of confidence and of acceptance. Its highly interactive approach provoked discussion and debate and it became so much more than a campaign – it became a cause.

There’s something to be said about ideas creating value. While original thinking can manifest itself in many ways, it can also create many forms of value – from emotional value right through to commercial value for a business or industry.

American Express with Small Business Saturday managed to generate true business transformation. By giving trade back to small businesses, American Express proved that an idea can be judged not just on its execution, but for its longer-lasting value.

What’s behind the idea?

Today’s creative directors need access to a constantly evolving and diverse set of skills as well as being on top of all the relevant emerging technologies. It’s like being a modern day Medici – surrounding yourself with a breadth of talent from different backgrounds that would have previously been unimaginable. This is so refreshing and it leads to such a breadth of fresh thinking. (More about this to follow in my blog series about being an ECD in the modern world).

We also need to be able to work at a new pace, set by the disrupter brands whose speed to market is unrelenting. Pace is forcing co-creation and the involvement of multiple disciplines from the word go. Gone is the old linear way of working. The role of the creative director has hugely evolved; we are often editors and curators as well the more traditional definition of a creative director.

With all the focus on technology, ecosystems, data and so on, coupled with the ever increasing pace of business, it’s easy to lose sight of what matters most. The defining ingredient. The idea. Its form is sometimes different, and it can come from anywhere, but without it, we’ve got nothing.

Ian Haworth is executive creative director at Wunderman UK

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