11:15 - Break. Everyone is scrolling through BlackBerries, looking important. The day started out well, with your pep talk conveying your confidence in the team's ability to develop BIG integrated ideas. The research guru led everyone through the tracking study and the ad agency is about to brief the team on the communications strategy.
12:30 - Lunch. After you pop out for an emergency call about a production crisis, all that's left is a warm roast beef sandwich and a caffeine-free Coke. A signal of what's to come...
1:15 - Brainstorming confusion sets in. What exactly is a BIG IDEA? How should it integrate with the TV campaign? Are we coming up with a new BIG IDEA? An AAE frantically types brainstorm notes on the big screen, a varied mix of strategies and platform ideas and tactics and miniature tactics, ranging from a new Twitter handle to a media buy on ESPN to an entirely new strategic direction.
We all have been in one of these meetings -- a meeting with high expectations for a BIG IDEA yet nobody knows what that means. Instead of well organized concepts, you're left with a 10-page Word document of scattered ideas. Here's how to get real results:
1) Identify exactly what you are looking to achieve from an ideas perspective.
As we've all witnessed, the term BIG IDEA means something different to everyone. Identify the phase you are in along the communications development continuum and give precise direction as to what you are seeking from agencies:
2) Don't host a traditional brainstorm, but rather an "idea share & build"
Inter-agency brainstorms are not necessarily effective for developing creative platforms or mega-tactics. These require careful deliberation from agency Creatives, who often come up with their best thinking outside of the brainstorming environment. It is best to instruct each agency to come prepared to present one to two creative platforms and associated mega-tactics. After all agencies have presented, host an "idea build" session in which all participants can build on the ideas and provide tactical suggestions. If you have a great moderator, he or she will be able to establish linkages between ideas and potentially merge some.
Same applies if you are in a more tactical stage of creative development. Agencies should come prepared with "mini-tactics," and then host an "idea build" to generate additional tactics and establish linkages between tactics.
3) Identify a core decision making team to finalize plans
After the inter-agency brainstorm, a core team will need to determine how to proceed, which may involve researching ideas or simply moving forward with favored ideas. While each agency can be offered the opportunity to cast a vote in favor of an idea, ultimately a small team needs to make the final decision.
On a final note, if you truly want Big Ideas, lose the catch-all phrase BIG IDEA. It's time to get specific.