This notion angers me. Why?
Let’s look at the argument that the Big Idea is dying. It goes something like:
- The Big Idea is a gimmick popularized during the "creative revolution" of the sixties. Think "Plop, plop, fizz, fizz" or "Snap, Crackle, Pop" or "Where's the Beef?"
- The gimmick was a way to steal people's attention just long enough to sell them something.
- In today's social media world, gimmicks don't work. Relationships are what matter.
You might be thinking to yourself that this is a perfectly logical argument. The problem is that it's based on a terrible and (ironically) small way of understanding the Big Idea.
The Big Idea is not a gimmick. Advertisers use gimmicks to call attention to Big Ideas. Somehow, that distinction has been lost.
""Where's the Beef?" isn't a Big Idea in it of itself. The Big Idea was that fast food chains were skimping on the good stuff and loading up on the cheap stuff. The Big Idea was that Wendy's wouldn't do poor quality. The Big Idea was that you could get inexpensive fast food without sacrificing quality.
"Where's the Beef?" was a gimmick. Wendy’s positioning and commitment was the Big Idea.
Do you see the difference?
The problem today isn't that ad agencies are stuck on Big Ideas. The problem is they're stuck on gimmicks, on small ideas.
Big Ideas inspire. Small ideas distract. People want to have a relationship with Big Ideas. Sure, people will watch a 2 minute video about a small idea, but then they move on.
So, if today's "big ideas" don't inspire you (and aren’t inspiring your customers), it's because they're not big at all.
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