Throughout my career I have been told a number of times ‘There is no such thing as a bad idea John’. I’m sure you’ve all heard it too. It normally happens to me during a brainstorm after I have shouted out a particularly bad idea. It fills the room with an uneasy quiet and forces the moderator to step in before it all gets too much for everyone.
After this happens, I notice that my idea, that ‘wasn’t a bad idea John’, is rarely written down on the half full flip chart at the front of the room. It’s a sad moment as the marker pen hovers over the page whilst the words ‘absolutely everything will be written down on here’ echo in the room. Bugger.
It got me thinking that perhaps there is such a thing as a bad idea after all. When Hillary Clinton set up that personal email account, that was a bad idea. The same goes for Walter White when he asked Jessie to go and buy that RV. Really bad idea. The moments when I shouted out ideas in brainstorms without taking a second to think through what I was saying, bad ideas too.
The same goes for Walter White when he asked Jessie to go and buy that RV. Really bad idea.
If pushed to be honest, I’m sure many advertisers and brand managers would own up to a few bad ideas in their time. That social campaign that didn’t quite work, that creative that nobody understood or that time we tried to ‘do native advertising’. My worry is that, in a time when brands are encouraged to move faster and faster to get ahead, it will become more and more tempting to deliver ideas for the sake of ideas, rather than for the good of the brief. This is usually a bad idea in itself.
Don’t get me wrong, I think that fast moving, agile brands will come up trumps more often than not. I also understand that our audiences will probably forget a bad idea as quickly as they posted about it in horror on Facebook. However, when we do have a bad idea it’s important that we recognise it. In this era of accountability, rather than saying ‘there is no such thing as a bad idea’, we can learn from these mistakes and we can use them to fuel better ideas next time. More than ever before, there is a real opportunity to stand out against the fog of messages that people see every day with a really excellent piece of work. And if that takes a little more time, then so be it.
John Tomlins – Account Director