At AAI the most exciting thing in the ‘glory days’ was to sit in conference room after conference room, and watch the reality of ideas being sold, and now and then bought.
During the couple of days when the final presentations were being made, all the agencies would be offering ideas – developed to specific briefs – that simply had not been there before. It is a thrilling moment for a client team (particularly on a global brand, where people don’t meet that often) to see shiny new ideas for their brand. Most of us dream of finding opportunities where there used to be a problem. To meet for the first time an opportunity in the shape of an idea makes all the late nights and travel worthwhile.
So much of the conflict I have seen over the years between what agencies are trying to do and clients’ lack of receptiveness is mainly because I don’t think there’s sympathy for the idea process. I think if you’re not stretching the idea brain regularly, you don’t even notice your lack of ideas. It’s a bit like the huge change we’ve seen with eating sensibly, keeping fit, and going to the gym or running. If you keep fit you can do so much more.
I think that we are in a situation where we are putting people through repetitive meeting torture. It has taken an awful lot of the oomph out of them. Many of these people have been educated well, promoted regularly, and paid handsomely – but they are not in any sense offering creatively or delivering ideas.
And The Very Idea is really designed to get people to want to come up with ideas. Because people who want to come up with ideas are going to be more sympathetic to professionally produced ideas from elsewhere.
So, that’s my mission. It’s not just confined to advertising.
It just so happens that, for me, the advertising world is an absolutely brilliant example of commercial creativity in action when it happens. When it’s doing well. And also an awful example of how bad it can be, when the spark is extinguished. Watch TV most nights, and you see the tragedy. Not even the most enthusiastic apologist for the industry could say that this is a vintage period, or that the output is even acceptable. Why? Lack of quality ideas and good thinking, in my opinion.