I’d like to bid on a virtual idea.

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Have you heard they’re selling virtual goods on EBay? Let’s say you play an online video game and you need 30 virtual gold coins to get a particular sword to kill some intergalactic sloth. You can play the game for days to get those gold coins or you can take a short cut and just buy the coins on EBay. (If you think this sounds crazy it is a business that is making hundreds of millions of dollars a year.) This proves what kind of world we live in. It doesn’t take much to satisfy us but we must be satisfied quickly. Oh, if only we could buy “virtual” ideas for ads. Then we creatives could satisfy everyone that wants them so quickly.

Ad agencies spend months working on a product’s marketing goals, on who the audience really is, on a key message they will respond to. This comprehensive process seems to always take more time than scheduled. Oddly, the deadline doesn’t move though, does it? Oh, well, we’ll just have to make it up somewhere. This is where EBay comes in. It’s time for those virtual ideas to come to us instantly, not through battle. We all know invention doesn’t happen that way. Deep down everyone knows you can’t rush it. Even the greatest strategy in the world doesn’t produce a great idea. Trial and error, rooms covered from ceiling-to-floor with the grotesque and ridiculous is only way you get there. But for some reason everyone except the people who think of these ideas can accept this. Time after time they come to us, first with an apology and that a promise that next time we’ll have more time. Next time, like tomorrow, never seems to come.

Taking three months of strategic work and then expecting excellent creative in a week is the equivalent of designing a skyscraper and then building it out of cardboard using a hot-glue gun. Clients deserve better. My agency is sensitive to this issue of course but it takes more than sensitivity. Those outside the creative department must better appreciate why it takes more than “two weeks” to come up with an idea worthy of the light of day. The number one reason is those two weeks is really two days. If you’re scheduling creative, figure two weeks of development and two weeks of job load. The creative you get should be much better. If not, fire the creative people and get new ones.

We creatives do have to share some of the blame. We’re a happy-go-lucky bunch who like things like Nerf hoops in our offices. We have shelves of toys and play music that bothers the accounting department. If were really working we wouldn’t have time for such frivolity. I’m saying this tongue-in-cheek to make a point. Invention isn’t done like anything else in a business. So time has to be the friend of creativity not it’s enemy.

We must remember the client is paying a small fortune for us to discover exactly what, when, where, and how to market their product successfully. If the “what” isn’t great, when, where and how is wasted along with a lot of the client’s money. If you’re a client, ask your agency if there is enough time being given to develop creative. You’ll get more for your money if they are.

Personally. I’m working on thinking of great ideas faster. That way I’ll have more than I need. Then, EBay, here I come.
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