Part 2: Becoming a Hunter of Ideas

July 28, 2016

By Roderick M. McNealy, ANA Faculty

Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “Great minds discuss ideas.” Yet, one of the most frequent complaints we hear from advertising agencies and internal creative teams is that most marketers cannot recognize good creative ideas at their seminal state.

On the other side of the coin, marketers invariably complain about the length and cost of the creative development process. But it is actually their inability to recognize compelling creative ideas that prolongs this critical process.

There are three key components to a well-crafted creative idea. The first of these is the naked idea or the idea encapsulated. Breakthrough creative work should be based upon a clear idea. This idea should be easily encapsulated in one crisp, concise sentence. For example, the iconic Apple campaign – “I’m a MAC, I’m a PC” – has the encapsulated idea of dueling brand characters. The Apple brand character, played by Justin Long, is presented in sharp contrast to the formal, stodgy PC brand character, played by John Hodgman. Another example of the encapsulated idea comes in the brilliant, recently concluded Dos Equis campaign, “The Most Interesting Man in the World.”

When you examine ads of all types, can you clearly encapsulate the naked idea? If not, possibly there is no idea. Shockingly, a great deal of very expensive creative lacks any real idea. But can you tell the difference? If you are a serious marketer, you need to be able to. The only way to do this is through continual practice.


Rod McNealy is a Princeton University American History Major and Harvard M.B.A. with 35 years’ experience at Procter & Gamble and Johnson & Johnson. He is the author of two books and has taught over 5000 students. At his upcoming ANA workshop, Rod will share the three key idea components and cover the vital role insights play in ideas and breakthrough messaging.

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