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The web offers so many possibilities for small ideas

June 5, 2011

If the mad men era of advertising taught us anything, it was trust the big idea.

What’s “The big idea” you ask?

When I was a young copywriter lad, a creative director described the big idea as this:

It needs legs. Meaning, the idea needs to be able to execute in all media forms. It needs to be simple: if it can’t work on a billboard, chances are it isn’t a big idea. And finally, it needs to be product specific. If one can insert the competitor into the ad and the ad still works, then it’s a big idea for the category. If the brand is a category leader, that might be a good thing. But if the brand isn’t the category leader, then the ad is a waste.

The big idea has ruled advertising for decades. Creative teams sequester themselves in rooms and think up big ideas. This post isn’t to tell you that the big idea is dead.

It isn’t.

The big idea is still just as important in advertising. For a brand, having a cohesive, persuasive message that can move across platforms is immensely valuable.

THis post is about little ideas. Little ideas that grow into bigger experiences that further the brand.

Case in point, Google. Google is innovative. They famously say employees have to spend 10% of their time on anything innovative. One supposes that one day, one of those Googlers was designing a 3-D bridge in Google Earth, and they thought it would be funny if they added something. Not something big, but something little.

If you want to see this live, go here:

Now, this police car flying over a bridge in New Jersey is a small thing that really might be part of a bigger idea. Maybe the bigger idea was to place interesting things in Google Earth and let them spread organically. Or maybe this is a one off. And all the other nuggets in Google Maps (there was a time when asking for walking directions from New York to London involved swimming across an ocean) are just small ideas, and not part of a bigger one. It doesn’t really matter. This image leads to an interesting user experience that surprises.

Google can do little things like this because it is a massive brand that is built on testing innovation.

But any brand can do the small things in digital. Any brand can add user experiences that add up.

So think little thoughts. You just might surprise and delight.

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