I think many advertising problems are mainly problems on having a common language.
People talk about same terms, but everyone has a different meaning attached to them. The most alerting situation is when there is not an unified vision of the most basic advertising terms within the agency. When people do not share the same ideals while speaking about strategy, concept, insight & idea, you end up doing disoriented work. That work does not answer business problems and it does not touch the target audience in relevant ways. I think one of the most misused terms is concept, so I wanted to share my views about that particular term.
The Seven Characteristicts of the Great Concept
1. There should not be ever such thing as a bad concept.
I believe in quantity when it comes to ideas. I rather come up with 999 ideas to be happy with the one brilliant one, instead of doing five rather good ones. The concept is build on the great ideas. And upon the killed ones at well. When you are moving from ideas to concepting phase, you should not be medling anymore in mediocrity. That should be scrapped along the process. Bad ideas might help to make good concept, but you cannot turn bad concept into a good one. Be ruthless when evaluating which makes concept.
2. The concept is integrated by nature.
TV ad is not a concept. Website is not a concept. Funny stunt is not a concept. Still I bet that everyone has encountered (or even provided) ideas, which might be fairly good ads but could not be leveraged to work properly and fluently across all the channels. If someone says: “We have a good concept, but it does not turn to mobile/tv/internet/outdoor/inset whatever channel here”, you really do not have a good concept. Good concepts rise above the media channels. In good concepts all the touchpoints work together to build the greater campaign. So even though coming up great concepts is hard work, the executions in different touchpoints should come quite effortlessly.
There is always a need for great conceptual thinkers in this industry. That conceptual thinking ability is what separates the truly great from a mere wordsmith or visualist.
3. The concept has potential to live long.
We live in fast world, which is just getting faster everyday. Even the really brilliant concepts have less time in market than before. However, with good concepts you sense the potential that it is more than just an one-off. You can see the opportunities to carry and nurture it for years and years to the future. The common mistake is to change winning concept too fast. Brand representatives and advertising agencies get tired of the concepts more faster than general public does. Many times you see that fully functioning concept has been replaced with a new mediocre one, just for the sake of it being new. New is not always equivalent for better.
4. Concept fullfills strategy.
Strategy is about identifying the most pressing business problem/opportunity for the customer and finding the most straightforward answer to it. Concept is the creative path to the consumer mind, action & wallet fulfilling that strategy. If strategy is wrong, you will not be able to come up with great concepts. That is why agency should really spend more time kicking around the customer´s main business problem (and not just just planning department). Whole team has to believe the strategy and be behind it. If there is reason of doubt or resistance among the team, the end-result will again be a lackluster campaign.
5. The concept is scalable & flexible.
Because of the channel-agnostic nature of great concepts, you have much more flexibility in terms of production. You get better results with an excellent concept under tight budget, compared with mediocre concept pumped up with big production money. The scalability goes other way as well, the more resources you can put into concept the better it gets.
6. Great concept pushes the envelope
You have to fight for the great concept within the agency and with your client. Mediocre and small-minded people will always try to find reasons to prevent groundbreaking and highly effective work to come out. Good concept pushes the boundaries and goes against the category conventions. This does not necessarily mean controversial work, but if your concept is not highly differentiating, it will not work.
7. Great concept is simple at its core
No matter how complicated or how many phases in the initial campaign will be, the core of the great concept is usually explained easily in a couple of sentences. The answers to questions “Why” and “What” should be as simple as possible, the “How” might be more pages or presentations. The craftmanship, rigor and the time invested to actual production based on that brilliant simplicity will make miracles. There is no shortcut for perfection and many times the final extra mile makes all the difference.
“When working in agency, we have to speak the same language both inside and to outside as well”
[…] is important to find out which of them have proper depth and leverage to be concepts. I wrote about the definition of concept last week. It is important to have good one-off ideas still on this phase, because they can […]