Hey, what’s the big idea?

George Best drunk on Wogan 

If we got rid of blog postings about whether big ideas are essential to advertising, we could afford to make the whole internet 13.2% smaller (approximately). However you do that.

It’s like a compulsion in AdLand. On and on and on it goes. In conversations in RealLife(TM), I’ve been party, within advertising circles, to discussions about whether X agency or Y agency even understands what a “BIG” idea is (the ideas are so big that you need to use capital letters or wave your hands a bit). I’ve even been known to noodle on about it myself.

A really good post on Brand New today explains that research agencies (presumably working for the department of the blindingly obvious) have now proven that just being interactive (i.e. in an interactive or ‘high involvement’ medium) does not in and of itself make an ad effective. The ad must have interesting content too. In other shock news, drinking alcohol may effect your ability to operate farming machinary.

Gareth follows up with a great quote from Gossage,

“Nobody reads advertising.  People read what they want to read and sometimes it’s an ad.”

The research agency who dropped this bombshell go on to explain how to add interesting content to advertising, rather missing the point and suggesting attention grabbing colours and high contrast for type.

Gareth goes on to say “how about the gift of an idea”.

Of course, this is completely right.

But it it did get me thinking. We need ‘big’ ideas for advertising because they are interuptive and consumed incredibly quickly or even subconsciously. If we’re going to get people, we need to hit them quick with something before they get a chance to move on. And, to make it through the clutter and the ad defence, it needs to resonate emotionally.

But with longer-term, higher involvement brands, we need to do exactly the opposite. Using “big ideas” in a longer-engagement situation is like George Best on Wogan – ready for the one liner but not really up for a coherent chat.

Is this why ad agencies are making a bit of a hash of a lot of these campaigns. Is what they really need not a big idea but a long one, or a wide one, or a generous one.

It must of course be an idea with the brand built into it too, and a brand a beneficiary of it. But perhaps we don’t need to shock and awe any more when we can calm and convince.