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A Thumbs Up For "Old" Ideas


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In any creative business, there’s a funny tendency for people to become attached to favorite concepts and tactics…especially those oh-so-inspired program ideas that no client ever actually bought. Then there’s the reverse of that, which is the “been there, done that” stigma that kills ideas thought to be too obvious, or “not differentiated.” I’ve been there, too.

Which is why I was interested to read AdAge‘s slightly snarky piece titled “PR Gimmick Is All Thumbs But A Big Win.” It’s about the “surprising” success of LG Electronics’ national competition to find the fastest text messager. It’s apparently become a “major branded entertainment property” attracting 250,000 entrants and co-sponsors MTV, the NY Mets, and CitiField. (Most reader comments dealt with the use of the word “gimmick.” True, calling it that marginalizes PR by limiting it to events and stunts. But, let’s not get too bothered by a headline.) 

What’s more interesting is that it’s about a third-year execution of an idea that could be described as….tired?  dated? me-too? Yes, all of those.  There’s probably not a PR person alive who hasn’t proposed a text messaging contest, given relevant clients. I seem to recall writing it into a few proposals, and stopping the idea’s gestation in utero several times because – well, been there, done that. 

But, have I been there?  Not really. My point is that the campaign’s success is a big win for LG and a useful reminder for the rest of us of a few principles of PR programming.   

First, the best programs – and the best stunts – rest on simple ideas, where the link between brand and creative tactic is intuitive.  Second, execution is critical – from the tiniest event details to the electrics we call packaging. That in itself can be a differentiator. We all know this, of course.

Finally, longevity can breed credibility. Okay, the LG program was first launched in 2007, and three years may not seem like such a long time. But, by today’s standards, it is. For whatever reasons, the brand stuck with the idea, a modestly success “gimmick” at first, enhancing the execution and building ownership.    

I don’t know much about this particular campaign, and I’m as big an advocate of new thinking as anyone. We should always push ourselves to break the mold. But, in our rush to show  extraordinary creative ability, it’s worth remembering that extraordinary planning, execution, packaging, and commitment also count. On the client side, far too many brands, under pressure to deliver quarterly ROI in an ugly environment, will dismiss an idea, a strategy, a staff, and an agency, in search of the next new thing when a concept doesn’t measure up. And, too many agency professionals will reject a “done” idea, without stopping to think who has actually “done” it, and whether it can be done better.

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