One Great Idea

The best ads are those that leverage the power of a single great idea.

What if the concept of mayhem was personified?

What can we offer the world given all that we’ve adopted from other cultures?

What if people were frightened by a mascot that has come to solve their problems?

What if we showed how a product can have a second life?

These are all simple ideas, but they’ve anchored memorable campaigns for Allstate, Sapporo, Gorilla Glue, and IKEA.

They’re effective because each of these concepts can be built upon and taken to their logical extremes in order to sell the virtues of a product.

You may not pay attention to the problem that an ad initially presents, but startled reactions to someone in a gorilla costume offering adhesive products will certainly catch your eye, if only for the surreal nature of the situation.

It was David Ogilvy who said, “people screen out a lot of commercials because they open with something dull. You know that great things are about to happen, but the viewer doesn’t. She will never know; she has gone to the bathroom.”

There is no substitute for a first impression, and yet if you’ve seen one commercial for certain product groups, like yogurt or heavy-duty trucks, it can feel like you’ve seen them all.

However, I know from personal experience that they have been annoyed into not wanting to have anything to do with a product, no matter how relevant it is to their needs, how much better it can make their life, or just how good it actually is.

I recently played Donut County, a fun little game developed by Ben Esposito.

Everyone’s familiar with those old wooden maze games where you need to navigate small metal spheres into the hole at the end, but Donut County’s big idea is that it is an inversion: as opposed to navigating to a hole, you control the hole, travelling around the stage, manipulating elements to solve puzzles, and ultimately swallowing everything up.

This concept was based on a years-old post from a parody Twitter account - something not meant to be taken seriously - and yet the end result is so unique and interesting, it carves out its own niche.

And that may be the unifying factor of all of the great ideas I’ve listed here.

None of them take themselves too seriously.

To quote Ogilvy again, “when people aren’t having fun, they don’t produce good advertising.”

No one has ever been bored into buying anything.