Expressing & Evaluating Your Ideas

“Approval by committee is the death of a campaign.” Terri Funk Graham

Over the past two weeks we have debated is the big idea dead? & ideas vs executions. One of the questions I received during the week, related to how Ideas should be expressed and how this then should be evaluated versus how an Execution is critiqued. Added to this, is the tension that arises when an anointed committee seek to determine the creative output. So this blog will attempt to address this and more and place a particular emphasis on giving you the tools so you can evaluate ideas and executions without the pressure of ‘outsiders.’

There’s no need to torment ourselves by trying to craft the expression perfectly in our minds first time around. We can start by simply writing down what we see even if it’s in bullet points. The key is to bring to life the brand’s Brand Builder Benefit (BBB) or Behavioural Driver (BB). As per last week, we will be illustrating the final output via the Idea Catcher.

To assist the expression process use words that help describe the way in which the idea works such as contrasting, dramatising, the analogy of, a metaphor/parody for etc. For instance, the Carlton Draught ‘Made from Beer’ idea can be expressed as: ‘Parodying Melodramatic Advertising’.

Refine your expression by removing any unnecessary executional elements. The question to ask here is whether the idea would remain the same if these elements were removed.

It’s now time to put these tips to the test, starting with a look at a classic Idea from Adidas.

Having completed the Idea Catcher, we’re now in a position to evaluate the idea. The key tool we use to do this is the Idea Evaluation Checklist shown below.

The first and last questions on the list are particularly important.

What is our gut reaction to the idea?

Basically, do we like the idea or not. We need to trust our initial instincts as they are the closest thing we’ve got to a consumer read on the idea.

Can the idea be a springboard for engaging executions?

As mentioned in the blog is the big idea dead?, the more we can align all our activity around a central idea, the greater the chance that our message will penetrate the target audiences subconscious.

Once we’ve got an idea we’re happy with and our media agency has presented a strategy to bring it to life (which we’ll cover in later blogs), we’re in a position to develop and evaluate the Campaign executions.

From a creative perspective, there are two key considerations at this stage;

  1. How does the idea translate executionaly across the different disciplines/activity types identified in the Media Strategy?
  2. What are the key executional elements that will glue the campaign together?

Using the highly acclaimed (and controversial) Lynx Jet campaign from Unilever, lets look at how this plays out in practise.

Above are some examples of how the idea of creating a “fantasy airline for men” to dramatise the brands Brand Builder Benefit of ‘helping guys get ahead in the mating game’ was translated across different disciplines and activity types.

The key executional elements that glue the campaign together are obviously the Lynxjet hostesses (or Mostesses!) – which today Unilever may think twice about and distinctive airline logo and strap line – “Get On, Get Off”.

When it comes to evaluating executions, not surprisingly we have another checklist at our disposable.

Let’s discuss a couple of the key questions on the checklist.

Firstly, it’s important to determine if the execution is consistent with the agreed idea. If not, we need to assess whether the new idea merits further investigation (ie. completing another Idea Catcher) or an alternative execution needs to be developed.

The second key question on the Execution Evaluation Checklist involves the role of the brand which is critical from a recall perspective.

No matter how dramatic and impactful the execution, it’s unlikely to be effective if consumers can’t remember what brand it relates to. It’s worth noting however that this isn’t just about the size of the logo, but the integration of the brand/product as a central element of the execution. Above are some examples of executions that demonstrate this point.

CMO Perspective: Terri Funk Graham – Jack in the Box

For most CMO’s, sharing creative control with outside agencies requires putting ego aside for the sake of the best final outcome.

But a big gamble was practically required when, over two decades ago, fast food chain Jack in the Box was facing a potential branding apocalypse in the wake of a nationally publicized E. coli outbreak. Looking to turn things around, the marketing team, along with the help of an agency spun out of Chiat/Day – Secret Weapon Marketing, brought back the beloved smiley-faced “Jack” character – who had been “killed off” in the 1980’s.

Sparking a renewed engagement between customers and the brand, the “Jack” campaign endured for the next two decades and is an example of a highly productive client / agency collaboration.

“I was always willing to take a risk and be unapologetic about who we were. Our Agency would present things that would make us feel uncomfortable. But we knew that it wasn’t going to hurt the brand as long as we were true to who we were. I am not a believer in dealing with any sort of pretesting of advertising, and we never did anything of that nature. One key reason I don’t like to pretest is that we live in a politically correct world where you’re always guaranteed to upset someone, which can hold you back from developing great creative work. I also think that approval by committee is the death of a campaign. You end up with mediocre work that way. The agency and I really trusted and respected each other in our work, and we would constantly challenge each other to keep it relevant.”

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