The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

The Bullshit Of Big …

So a few months ago, I was invited to talk at a conference about ‘ideas’.

Yeah … I know, it’s all been said and done before, but the reality is a good idea is still the only legal means to counter distribution, history and cash.

The issue is a lot of the ideas being spoken about are not ideas, they’re attempts at hype.

The ad industry is notoriously bad at this, often confusing an ad idea with an idea or worse, confusing bollocks, with genius.

Anyway, while I was there, I got to hear a bunch of great people speak – people who have built sustainable businesses through genuine breakthrough ideas – and despite them covering a whole range of industries, there was one thing that was common to them all.

Their idea made sense.

They could describe it in a few words.

And while it’s true some of their ideas required massive infrastructure change before they would see success, at the heart of it, their idea was something simple and – to a certain degree – obvious.

Each one had tackled a real problem, not a marketing problem.

Each one had looked for what the audience didn’t like rather than improving what they did.

Each one was able to be utterly focused on what was the key deliverable to increase the odds of success.

Each one ensured the execution of their idea was as intuitive as possible to minimise the gap between the old ways and the new.

These 4 things helped them get investment.

These 4 things helped them get other people to share their enthusiasm for their idea.

These 4 things helped them build a business that disrupted the category to define the category.

It sounds so bloody simple and yet so few people are actually any good at doing it.

Sure, there’s a whole host of other factors that go on behind the scenes to make it happen … and they all talked about the stresses and failures they had along the way … but what really struck me was that regardless whether they had developed a new car brand or a new way for youth to interact, each and every one of them described their idea in a way that made sense.

Now compare that to some of the ideas we see from our industry …

Pegs that use weather aggregation technology to tell you when it is best to wash your clothes.

Plates that use holes to drain 30 calories of fat from each meal.

Caps that help blind paralympic swimmers, swim.

There’s a reason they end up as scam because no venture capitalist worth their salt would invest in them.

I know there are many, many brilliant people in this industry.

I know there are many brilliant ideas that can be turned into something phenomenal for brands and business.

But maybe it would help the whole industry if we stopped thinking we were the Idea Kings and learnt from the people who have made it happen … because while it seems what they have achieved is incredible, their genius is that they made is sound utterly acceptable and inclusive.

35 Comments so far
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Love this.

“Each one ensured the execution of their idea was as intuitive as possible to minimise the gap between the old ways and the new.”

Was this a conference open to everyone or a client thing? It sounds fantastic and those 4 steps to success are great advice.

Comment by Pete

get a fucking room.

Comment by andy@cynic

It was definitely a client thing … there’s no way I could afford the ticket price if it was a public conference. So yes, I blagged it. Again.

Comment by Rob

It always amazes me that people don’t realise how much traction can be achieved simply by eliminating something that irritates customers. It’s so obvious, but it’s attempted so rarely. I guess it’s not shiny enough.

Comment by John

I agree with you John. The last 5 years have shown me that the reason for this is because companies (especially engineers within companies) get obsessed with perfecting the vision they have for their idea. Their vision, no one else’s. So unless customer irritation falls in line with their vision, they view it as a distraction rather than an opportunity. In short, ego hinders meaningful progress.

Comment by George

You mean some engineers only pay lip-service to user testing?

Comment by John

You mean some engineers have forgotten about thet Jakob Nielsen post from March 2000 and his original paper from 1993?

Comment by John

I must choose my words carefully here. Let me put it this way, engineers regard user testing as very important and there are other areas of their product development process that they regard with equal importance.

Comment by George

Comment by John

Preaching to the converted John.

Comment by George

you corporate fucking toady.

Comment by andy@cynic

Sounds like you attended one of the few great conferences Robert. I really like the 4 lessons you learnt from them but can you explain to me the very last sentence of the post. Specifically the word “invisible”. I’m not sure I understand that final point.

Comment by George

I’m not sure anyone does – unlike the rest of the post that sentence certainly doesn’t comply with his previous observations that “Their idea made sense.” and “They could describe it in a few words.”

Comment by John

remember youre talking about campbell. why the fuck are you shocked his shit doesnt make complete fucking sense. have your brains been switched off for the last 10 fucking years?

Comment by andy@cynic

Errrrrm, it’s a typo … it should have said ‘incredible’. I’ll change it now and I’ll try to remember to proofread before I publish in future.

Comment by Rob

So even you don’t bother reading your posts.

Comment by DH

So I have wasted the last hour trying to understand your perspective. Thanks plenty Robert.

Comment by George

this post is a fucking typical planner post. state the obvious. claim its genius. claim youre a fucking genius for seeing it.

Comment by andy@cynic

Just be grateful he didn’t give details of his talk – though I’m sure you’ll tell me it’s one you’ve seen before

Comment by John

Actually it was an entirely new presentation. Well, 85%, which for me is rarer than seeing Haleys comet. Plus I talked about Boaty McBoatface, so I deserve points for that. Surely?

Comment by Rob

Wait, you were presenting too? That would have been fun to watch, especially seeing the other presenters faces as you talked about boatie.

Comment by Bazza

I know. It was probably the biggest insult of their career.

Comment by Rob

It sounds like you were witness to an excellent conference Robert. I enjoyed this post, I will be passing it on.

Comment by Lee Hill

You only went for the free shit.

Comment by Billy Whizz


Comment by DH

The conference was free [for me] so I suppose you’re right. Congratulations.

Comment by Rob

I don’t say this very often, but this is a good post. The points you highlight aren’t new, but the way you say them makes it easier to appreciate their importance. I may borrow some of this.

Comment by Bazza

Hello Marcus.

Comment by John

[…] John on The Bullshit Of Big … […]

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When an agency says the ‘big idea’ no my exp. they mean the ‘organising idea’ or the strategy that allows them to create (build and bill) all the small ideas off it. If the ‘how’ is lame everything following prob will be too. As a planner you are in a unique position to put an actual big idea on the agenda – even though you know there’s no chance an ad agency could ever hope to implement those solutions because by definition it’s a bigger idea than the comms hacks the agency knows how to do.

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