Great post by Hugh at gapingvoid:
I worked for a large ad agency a while ago. The ad agency had a large beer account. Me and 40 other creatives spent 6 months writing beer campaign after beer campaign trying to come up with “The Superbowl Ad”. Something we could sell for millions of dollars to the folks in Milwaukee. And we would need to- our hourly billings must have been worth almost that alone.
I won’t even tell you what we sold them in the end. It was appalling. Campaign got killed soon after. Heads rolled.
Whatever. During the campaign writing I had this thought:
If the idea doesn’t work on a beermat, it’s not going to work on a 60-second Superbowl spot. So maybe get the beermat campaign working BEFORE the Superbowl ad, not vice versa.
Instead of spending milions of dollars on “The Superbowl Ad”, why not spend that money cranking out beermat campaigns, till you find one that really works? Using beermats in small, test markets, you could easily create 50, 100 (500? Who knows?) campaigns for one tenth the price of one decent Superbowl/TV commercial. It would be a simple, cheap and quick way of working out the necessary language to resonate with the beer-drinking public.
This resonates with my own agency experience, and is part of the huge downside to the “Big Idea” culture. Agencies persuade themselves that everything is about the big idea. The bigness of which is objectively determined by… the biggest ego in the building, usually. Or (just as bad) by a string of sleep-inducing focus groups around the country. In a networked world, it’s much, much smarter to let the market determine the great ideas by starting lots of conversations instead of rigging up a giant 60 second propaganda dump.