“Don’t take my idea.” “I had that idea first.” “He stole that idea from me.” Work in advertising? At an agency? How many times have you heard those lines spoken? How many times might you have uttered them — or even shouted them — yourself.
It may be true that every campaign, platform and creative execution started out as someone’s chicken scratch on a pad of paper, but our industry’s obsession with giving credit to one person or worse yet encouraging us to always make it about the “me” instead of the “we” continues to hold agencies back from developing modern, interactive, social ideas.
Granted a pure ad idea – tv script, print ad, billboard – might easily be attributed to one person or team; a script or a layout doesn’t get touched by that many people. But what about a digital experience? When does it actually become an idea? After that very first sketch? What if it evolves into something quite different as it gets developed.
A couple of years ago I had an idea for a Twitter based conversation about SuperBowl ads. But someone else suggested tying in sentiment analysis and all the measurement that actually made BrandBowl the experience it became. What got created went far beyond the original brain fart.
Right now I’m working on a new social media sports experience that ties together content, fan participation, data analysis and advertiser engagement. But it’s possible that the true idea – maybe it will become a platform upon which aspiring sports writers can launch their personal brand – won’t even become evident until long after we’ve been through beta. What will the idea be then? And whose idea will it be?
I’ve posted here in the past about Made by Many’s Skype in the Classroom. Heck, in that case MxM didn’t even know what the problem was never mind the idea that would solve it. That emerged from the teachers who actually use Skype. Again, what was the idea? Whose idea was it? Should credit go to the person who identified it when it became apparent? Why not to whoever conceived the process by which the idea was discovered?
I’m not suggesting that great ideas don’t spring from the heads of great creative people. Or that we should encourage team-think to the exclusion of solutions generated by singular talents. It’s just that if we place more emphasis on the idea itself and less on who deserves credit, we might get to better ideas and find that more people want to work on them and make them better.
Years ago, Google’s Marissa Mayer was quoted as saying that at Google the company tries to avoid territoriality and strives to “give the ideas credit, not credit for the ideas.”
I think that as advertising agencies try to get better at building stuff, creating in the digital space, thinking socially, and involving customers and users in the process, that would be good advice for all of us to heed.