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The Big Idea

During my years working for a Tier 1 Ad Agency, I spent a lot of time talking about the 'Big Idea". To be frank, when I started, I had no idea what it meant. I still can't find anyone who has published an explanation of what it means.

It was actually one of our competitors that helped me understand the 'Big Idea'. A group of agencies were hosting a seminar for the Ad industry. Sir Martin Sorrell, head of WPP, was coming to town to talk about the state of the industry.

They teamed me (the 'suit') with the head of what was Toronto's hottest creative agency at the time (the 'Creative') so that we could put together a campaign and program.

The Creative was very open. If he was in the boardroom when I arrived for a meeting, he would invite me in, whether he was talking to his staff or even when he was meeting a client. I got to hear him plan or pitch a 'Big Idea' on several occasions.

But with respect, they were all the same 'Big Idea'. He was actually pitching the idea of a 'Big Idea'! 

He was extremely bright and very quick and would come up with some strong imagery. ('We should feature exotic animals! "I think a bullet really captures the idea of speed to market!"  "How about boats?") Having said this, he would immediately package the idea. ("We could publish a booklet featuring ..." "We could put a huge one right on Bay Street - wow - we'd get press with that!  Oh, think of the contests we could do!"  etc. etc.")

His simple (and repeatable) pitch was itself the 'Big Idea". An idea that his Agency used to create a greenfield to capture more business.

A 'Big Idea' might be as sophisticated as a new business model, or as rudimentary as better training. It could be an entirely novel approach to distribution or a minor, yet important, tweak to pricing. It could entail expanding your capabilities or streamlining operations. It does have to fit with all aspects of the business. It has to have legs.