Ad Exec: There are no new ideas
by Tom Fels (@thomasfels) So much time and money is spent by brands trying to generate campaigns that stick, with teams of strategists and creatives exploring direction after direction to nail one big idea. Yet how often during the presentation of that idea is a video reference shared, showing someone else doing almost the same thing they’re proposing to do?
The founder of Cool Hunting, Josh Rubin, is quoted as saying “there are no new ideas, just great execution.” His notion explores the relationship between business and creativity as he seeks to discover how people do things under increasing pressure to execute.
Melania Trump rode that line pretty close during the 2017 US Presidential inauguration in a Ralph Lauren dress ‘inspired’ by the reign of Jackie Kennedy Onassis as a global style icon. Some called it a stroke of genius; others called her out.
Making it your own
In fashion there is no doubt that designers seek inspiration from the past to guide the future, but each adds a touch of their own: a modern twist or a trademark signature that sets their work apart.
Musically, from acoustic covers to Carpool Karaoke, there is also novelty in hearing a song you know, interpreted or presented in a way you’d never imagined. Canadian band Walk Off the Earth generates millions of YouTube views covering songs you already love —I’m sure Adele herself is one of the 5m people who’ve viewed this cover of her hit Hello, performed in a garage.
Where there is originality in inspiration, talent in execution and brilliance in craft, no one cares if someone has done it before — they are delighted to see it ‘again’.
What this means for agencies
Consumer products don’t exist in a vacuum — the people buying chocolate bars are the people interested in sports, fashion, music, movies and culture. For good reason, brands need to explore these worlds to gain relevance.
An old client known for saying ‘borrow with pride’ would happily see a reference of a designer outfit, a catchy song or video and a marketing platform that unites these elements, with the brand at the centre.
While true creatives will hate the notion that the starting point for their next idea doesn’t necessarily have to be a blank canvas, every once in a while it may be interesting to take your cue from other success stories, before adding your stamp of originality in execution.
This column has been updated at 8.50am on 1 March 2017.
With over a decade of local and international experience in leading brand consulting, design, shopper marketing and integrated advertising roles, Tom Fels (@thomasfels) has gained a deeply relevant understanding of the dynamics of agencies. His skills are put to work daily as group managing director of Publicis Machine. He contributes the monthly “Ad Exec” column to MarkLives.