The odd thing about ideas, you will have noticed, is that when you see a good one you almost only have to hear the title and know.
I often think about the pitch to movie execs that wouldn’t have had to get too much further than ‘It’s called The 40 year old virgin’ to know the entire script and concept was just waiting to be made. It was already funny, moving, sad and the happy ending was already written and all they had was a title.
If you are starting out in the business you will find your first book crits will take a while. Whomever is reviewing your ideas may have to take time to explain why it doesn’t work or isn’t right or doesn’t make sense or how you could make it work.
And then one day you’ll have a couple of campaign ideas that just get a nod and a smile and they move on to the next idea.
Pretty soon you’ll be having those book crits or zoom calls (I guess that’s what happens these days in lieu of visiting agencies) and be in and out in ten minutes.
The faster the crit the better.
And that’s a good sign that you are nearly ready to be hired or worth a shot at an internship.
It’s the same with ideas in an agency, very often as a CD you are presented with a range of really good ideas. How do you choose one?
Most ideas have issues. Too expensive, too difficult or needing too many partnerships with brands that wouldn’t give a fuck. It doesn’t mean they’re bad ideas, they’re just complex. Hard work. Can they be stripped back to something simple? The tone is slightly off, it feels familiar, all manner of things.
Sometimes you just have to decide because there’s no time and we have to back a horse because we have a deadline. And that can result in a not bad idea getting made but everyone convincing themselves it was a great job because bla bla. It happens.
But the greatest luxury any agency CD has is to have the time to wait and ask his or her teams to keep thinking.
Because when that idea pops up, after a few rounds of concepting maybe, everyone knows it and everyone feels excited.
I recently read a piece in Forbes, written by the Creative Director at Chiat Day in the late 90’s, a genius named Rob Siltanen. He tells the tale of when they pitched for the Apple account for a second time, when Steve Jobs had returned. After a week of work the creatives all put their work on the wall.
Pages and pages of celebrity endorsements and pictures of Macs adorned the conference room wall.
And there, like a beacon was a black and white picture of Einstein and the line ‘Think Different’ and nothing else. Another had a picture of Gandhi and another Thomas Edison.
Legend has revised this story as Steve Jobs himself being responsible for the creative, he wasn’t- at least not in the way as a creative you would credit him, certainly as a client- but the credit for that first creative leap should belong to an art director called Craig Tanimoto and Rob Siltanen for spotting it and essentially enabling the whole campaign.
They presented this one idea at the pitch and the rest is history.
As an idea it doesn’t touch the sides. It instantly forms like a great song or a movie idea.
And if you love ideas it’s that buzz of recognition that makes the whole job worth it.
The excitement of selling it to an eager client and the prospect of fame and glory.
If you never quite get that feeling from the work you’re seeing, well you may not be making the best work you can as an agency or as an individual.
If you never get that feeling when you have an idea then that idea isn’t the one and you need to keep thinking or join an agency that will allow you time to reach full braingasm.
Trust me it will be worth it.