Disruptive ideas that fit in

Publicis Groupe New York's SVP Executive Creative Director Dept W breaks down why he values one idea over another and just what we mean when we say an idea is disruptive

My job is to place a value on other people’s ideas.

High value, work it up.
Some value, keep pushing.
No value, go again.

In a creative review last week I told one of my teams, ‘This idea works. Work it up and let’s forget about the rest’.

Walking away from the meeting, the art director turned to me and asked, ‘How do you know if you made the right call back there, why did you pick just that idea and not the others?’ I explained I’d based my decision on a combination of experience, gut and strategy. I then spent most of the next hour distracted by a nagging feeling that I’d dodged his question. Or at least not given him the full answer he deserved.

He didn’t ask me why I’d picked one idea out of sheer interest or annoyance at my choice. He was trying to decode what I liked about it so he could learn. He wanted to understand how I placed a value on his ideas so he could get those ideas made.

I’ve worked under vague CDs in my career who rarely gave me clarity on their choices, so I decided I owed him a more considered answer. This article is, hopefully, the answer his question deserves.

I’ll start with a word so overused it’s in danger of becoming meaningless: disruptive.

An idea with high value has to be disruptive. Disruptive ideas are original in execution or conception. They are simple enough to explain to someone in the street and complex enough to answer a client's brief. They get backs out of seats and people off their cellphones during a creative review.

They get colleagues talking and client’s minds racing. This one idea was disruptive.
But also, it fit in.

It was relevant to the right people because it played off culture.
It was talking to the right people because it was inspired by data and strategy.
It would be seen by the right people because it fit into the best practise of the channels they browsed.
It would be shared by the right people because it was simple to do.
It was a disruptive idea that fit in.

It was relevant to the right people because it played off culture

It wasn’t a beautiful original piece of content that would gather dust on the outskirts of the internet. Or a data driven, digitally optimised, lazily written 10 sec film that would be everywhere but ultimately ignored.

It was an original idea that was data inspired and digitally optimised.

It was a 60 sec film on Facebook.

A 10 sec film that worked with the sound off.

A service that disrupted an established marketplace.

And a story a sales assistant could tell a customer in BestBuy.

It had value because it was original enough to break through the clutter and considered enough to ensure it travelled. And that made my decision easy.

Ciaran McCarthy is SVP Executive Creative Director Dept W at Publicis Groupe in New York. Connect with him on LinkedIn.

This article first appeared in issue 1 of new members-only Marketing Society publication EMPOWER. Members can read the issue here. If you've forgotten your login details please email our Editor.