Turning an Idea into the Next (Really) Big Thing

A couple of Facebook heavyweights and a advertising legend share what they believe are keys to “creativity at scale.”

In today’s global and social media worlds how do we create great, breakout ideas? And once we do, how can we develop the “creative” to make stories relevant on a massive scale?

Those questions turned out to be the central ones during a lively and forthcoming panel discussion yesterday, June 18, 2013, at the 60th International Festival of Creativity—the Cannes Lions. Entitled “Creativity at Scale” and moderated by Pattie Sellars of Fortune magazine,  the panel featured David Droga, the founder and Creative Chairman of New York-based agency Droga5; Mark D’Arcy, Director of Global Creative Solutions at Facebook; and Andrew Bosworth, Facebook’s Director of Engineering who is credited for such innovations as Facebook Newsfeed, Groups and Messaging.

During the 45-minute session, the panelists shared six points on how best to get a product recognized on a global scale:

Make it participatory

Some time ago, as Droga sees it, the ad industry forgot that it needed to actually earn people’s attention. As a result, a whole industry sprung up around helping people skip advertisements. We need to make our work more participatory. We fancy ourselves great storytellers.

Today, part of the story is how people get involved. Once they are engaged, they amplify to their networks and we only need to go a few hops to get scale.

Find THE idea, not a million of them

Creative people are used to exploring dozens of ideas rather than zero in on one exceptional idea. When Facebook launched photo sharing, it wasn’t great, as Bosworth himself admitted. But the best bit it had was tagging. That one idea caused Facebook’s photo sharing to grow exponentially. Get to the core of some goal people have (e.g. sharing photos), and you can build your product or idea on that.

Steady wins the race

Advertising grew up around the finish-line model according to Droga. It’s a model where everyone worked like maniacs to get the campaign done and launched, with everyone then shouting, “We’re done!”

That doesn’t work today. Creativity gets delivered via a steady cadence of everyday engagement. D’Arcy pointed out a campaign for the retail giant Target, who ran an ongoing program where people could determine which schools would get funding from them. The activity generated more than 300 million stories in newsfeed. Rather than thinking of campaigns as sprints, we need to think of our work as the creative marathon.

Build on ideas

The ad business doesn’t like riffing and building on good ideas. While advertisers are inspired by others, they often dismiss ideas that seem derivative. Advertisers crave originality over repetition.

That’s flawed according to D’Arcy. Instead, he said, advertisers should act like such technology companies as Instagram and Facebook that build on good ideas. For instance, 12 people built Instagram, which on the surface was not an original concept. Loads of others had done photo sharing and filters. Instagram just put its own spin on the idea.

A good idea isn’t much without distribution

Today’s creative must come with its own clever distribution strategy. That might start with Facebook but will then extend out through networks of owned, earned and paid platforms and channels. Gone are the days when you could just plop great creative down a single ad channel to drive mass reach.

Get closer to the people you are engaging

Creatives must have a much tighter relationship with the people experiencing the product or service. Never before has there been so many ways to listen to and talk with the actual people using products and services. Creativity that scales is iterative and responsive. Great creatives are no longer lurking around behind the scenes but are out shaking the virtual hands of regular people.