Hogshead On The Lost Art Of The Big Idea

Sally Hogshead wants creatives to remember their true (i.e., traditional) value: as people who come up with great ideas based on insights into brands and human nature. It’s easy to forget the importance of a really kick ass “concept” these days when many agencies–even a fair amount of hotshot digital shops–are simply struggling to keep up with, and educate their clients on, the latest trends. So it’s worth pointing out what should be obvious: “Facebook app” and “SMS txt” are not ideas; they’re tactics.
From AdAge:

To be successful over the long haul, your career can’t be founded upon trendy epiphanies or shiny new executions. Just as a pun wasn’t a concept in the late 80s, a typographical treatment wasn’t a concept in the mid 90s and shock value wasn’t a concept in the late 90s, so does new media need a core idea in order to reach its full potential. Most new-media revelations will seem laughably quaint in a few years. But true human insight will never go out of style.

What are you selling–ideas or tactics? This strikes me as important to think about, especially as clients push ever harder for more “integrated” creative across their agencies.

About Matt Bergantino


  1. while sally certainly has her detractors, i couldn’t agree more.
    it’s frustrating for me to see that great ideas seem to now be eclipsed by new media opportunites. as in, “yeah, we can dangle a giant shoe from the empire state building!”
    followed up by the most logical question from those of us who care about great ideas: “conceptually, what does that have to do with shoes?”
    the new, non-traditional-minded-response being: “it’s a shoe hanging from the empire state building! that’s the idea!”
    that’s bullshit.
    yes, that’s non-traditional, but that’s not an idea.
    if you’re going to use new media outlets, at least use them in a relevant fashion.

  2. she frightens me.

  3. Intelligence will do that.

  4. I think she’s dead on.
    I can’t tell you how many times I’ve presented an idea as, say, radio, only to have it shrugged off. Then I present the same idea as “viral audio for blogville” and it goes over gangbusters.
    When done right, great ideas can cleave to a specific execution or media (the Reynolds Wrap ambient campaign from Saatchi) or transcend all media. But they have to START as great ideas.
    And for most clients, the latter solution is preferable.

  5. Am i the only one who thinks she’s stating the bleeding obvious here?

  6. It’s obvious if/when you’re grounded in the fundementals. Sadly, that’s not the case far and wide.

  7. The Sex Pistols were a tactic. The Clash were an idea.

  8. Yes. She is stating the “bleeding obvious.”
    But with every planner conference where non-creatives spend agency money talking about “convergence,” “integration” and whatever the new “synergy” is, it’s also obvious that this is a point that needs to be driven home.
    And one that’s driven home by a woman of unequaled creative pedigree.

  9. What goes around comes around. Agencies and their clients have been chasing tactics in the never ending quest for consumer ears and eyeballs for years. Ever wonder why the average lifespan of a CMO is just 24 month? Because when they get there they keep doing the things they were doing and don’t solve real problems. To blame in part are old marketers, protecting their jobs, who tell young marketers to test anything new they want in marketing, as long as it’s not actually a better idea than their own. How many times did I hear those EVPs of client service at Leo Burnett telling younger account execs to create “seasonal behavior models to better track condensed soup sales?” (There. That ought to keep my competition busy for the next three months.)
    But idea people also fall victim to SEARCH SATISFACTION. They stop looking for better ideas when they find solutions to situations they like. For example, why did Crispin Porter + Bogusky launch Orville Dedenbacher and loose the account? Simply because they could.
    I posted a more reasonable campaign on my blog, which would have done the job and kept the account.
    But what agencies and clients lack is home work. Doctors too fail to do their homework and fall victim to SEARCH SATISFACTION. They stop looking for better answers to diagnose patients when they find an answer they feel best fits a given set of symptoms patients present. They only problem? A higher percentage of doctors routinely misdiagnose patients more often than anyone would care to admit.
    There are processes for examining a product’s potentials – hundreds of selling dimensions if you will – that when placed in the hands of consumers will enable them to give you the better answers. As long as agencies continue not doing this homework, and shooting from the hip, I will admonish anyone to remember HAT BLIND FAITH AS A BAND, NOT SOMETHING YOU PUT INTO ADVERTISING AGENCIES. Christ, when you go to McCann-Erickson’s website the very first thing you see is a shot of “mental jellyfish.” That’s selling yourself! But maybe I’m the only one who sees this irony. If you can’t sell yourself well, how can you help a client?

  10. Creative commando says:

    I think Mme. Hogshead is absolutely correct. And I also appreciate that she’s not “excusing” the crusty types who don’t want to have anything to do with new media.
    but that doesn’t change the fact that she is but one voice in a sea of industry prognosticators who mostly are saying you’re out of this industry in 3 years if you don’t start producing great new media executions. I think that’s spooking people alot right now.