What’s On

Have ideas become a commodity?

There’s an old saying, ‘If you throw enough mud, eventually some will stick’. Although this often refers to malicious gossip, I wonder if agencies these days are repeatedly throwing sub-standard ideas at clients in the hope that one will be accepted. A sort of scatter-gun approach. Alongside this is a growing need for speed in the delivery of what could potentially be a smorgasbord of mediocrity. In doing so, are we sacrificing a comprehensive quality solution, one that we truly believe in, for a quick-fix solution?

Often, a great idea is born from the brain dump of a team of brilliant people – while this is true, the client should be presented with the results of the ideation process, and not, in a rushed attempt to deliver, the dump itself. There is a genuine need for speed, and I can see why. Both client and agency are operating in a drastically changing landscape. It’s moving fast and campaigns that take weeks or months to conjure up can often become redundant before they’re executed.

There are other changes to the landscape that causes us to deliver a smattering of mediocre ideas as well.

#1. The sheer volume of stakeholders who now make decisions, both on the agency and client side, but particularly the client side. We often don’t know if we’re presenting to key decision makers or the summer intern.
#2. Channel diversity requires more individualised navigation but the number of specialists with such input is growing which can be frustratingly myopic. With endless channel solutions, clients often want to see each channel covered, regardless of its efficacy.
#3. Today’s amazing real time feedback on campaign performances can cause premature and unnecessary tacking of a campaign direction and this is changing our relationship with our ideas and possibly rocking our confidence in our work.

So the question is, are we sacrificing the proven quality of a single brilliant idea in an attempt to be all things to all people, all channels and all stakeholders?

As we navigate the ever more complex media landscape, it’s important to remember the core principles of good ideas and effective solutions. Quality should not be compromised as we adapt with the times. Yes, we need to deliver work faster than ever before, but agility should be a philosophy not a process. To use a baking analogy, we need to learn to build faster ovens, not, as I am seeing today, present clients with half-baked ideas and think that we are ‘keeping up with the times’.

There is no simple answer on how to effectively navigate this changing landscape, but as a start I believe that partners need to agree to the right solution as a collective and focus on how to make the ideation process work more efficiently.

An agency’s role is to create strong ideas and follow them through with confidence, and not, flounder around aimlessly trying to save an unsalvageable idea that was created in a kitchen populated with far too many chefs.

Agility is no longer a luxury; it is how we must operate but without the sacrificing of principles.

Ben Cunnington

Ben Cunnington is Regional Strategic Director at Vizeum APAC.