a video from the reality show "The Pitch"

Creative Campaigns Can Come From Stupid Ideas

If a reality show focuses on contestants duking it out with their creative skills, I’m riveted. I love watching the designers on Project Runway come up with a gorgeous outfit in a matter of hours. (And all the better if they must shop for materials at the grocery store; Will anyone ever beat the corn husk dress from season one?) I can’t wait to see how the chefs on Chopped will make something delectable from a basket of crazy ingredients like chicken intestines and clementine oranges.

the pitch videoPitching it

I can’t sew, and I don’t consider myself a creative cook, so those shows are pure entertainment for me. But when I saw The Pitch, I could totally relate. The show pits two advertising agencies against each other to win a company’s account for a new campaign. The challenges are always different, but each agency’s process of starting from zero to create something memorable and marketable usually follows the same path. It starts with a not-great idea.

And that’s why I love watching this show. While there may be a creative genius in the agency who comes up with the perfect phrase, usually the team spends a good bit of time batting around a bunch of bad ideas. 

Censoring yourself

It’s so easy to censor yourself when presenting ideas to a team of smart people. Is this a horrible pun? Does this go too far? Is it completely off the mark? There’s some idea that talented people have brilliant ideas effortlessly, but usually a lot of work is done to edit and refine an idea to be workable. Outside voices are key, nudging along the germ of a concept into something good, better, great.

One of my favorite episodes showed the head of one agency pushing his idea as the only one to pitch, not even listening to other options from his colleagues. That agency did not get the job.

Lessons learned

So when I watch The Pitch  it confirms a few things about the creative process:

  1. You need other voices.
  2. You need to be unafraid to stink up the joint.
  3. You need to go around and around with an idea, poking at its weak spots and seeing if it survives.
  4. At some point, everyone has to commit to the idea and do their best to make it work.

Time after time, I’ve watched stupid ideas morph into good ideas or spark better ideas. I’ve seen it on the show and I’ve seen it firsthand. The amazing thing is, once the good idea gets going, everyone forgets about its stupid beginnings.