Don’t Sweat The Big Idea

There’s a famous joke called The Aristocrats:

A family walk into a talent agent’s office. The agent asks what their act is. The family get on stage, and do the most vile things to each other. Eventually, the agent asks what the act is called. “The Aristocrats.”

It’s a favourite among comedians, a rite of passage. The setup and the punchline always remain the same, but each person can make it their own, riffing on the middle. Usually it’s an excuse to be as filthy and offensive as possible. This is South Park’s version.

Good advertising works the same way.

Effective brands find new ways to say the same thing again and again. Gareth Price says “Advertising must find new ways of repeating itself.”

This is the power of a brand platform, like Specsavers’ Should’ve Gone To Specsavers and Snickers’ You’re Not You When You’re Hungry. Consistent messaging for decades, not weeks. Sadly it’s often the first thing a new agency or client kills.

I love what UberEats are doing, in the early stages of building their Aristocrats:

 

 

This is good advertising. It’s product heavy, uses celebrities to grab attention, and is establishing a clever brand mnemonic in the doorbell.

And it has longevity. As sponsors of the Australian Open, the template was adapted with some very cute executions like this:

 

 

The effectiveness in these is not a big idea. They aren’t creatively sexy. But they are good advertising. It’s far from boring and fits their brand platform template. Mark Ritson would call it “disruptively consistent”.

Not all ads need a big idea.

This camping store won’t be winning any creative awards, but the campaign will work its guts off. This car ad doesn’t have a human insight or big idea, and yet is distinctive and positions them as the fun SUV. Especially if they run quirky ads like this for the next decade.

The Nordics have been doing it forever.

As I write this we’re hours away from Superbowl. There will be plenty of big swings, and many of them will hit. But if you’re ever worked in an agency, you know getting to a big idea is hard, and making one is even harder.

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