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Enterprising Thoughts

  • A good idea is not enough

    Published on October 11, 2010.

    I once received an award for “The Best Idea That Didn’t Sell.” I guess that is sort of a left-handed compliment. Got the idea, but couldn’t pull it off. Truth be told: I tried to sell the idea twice. Failed twice, but have a little trophy to remind me of the failure.

    The idea? The Philadelphia Sports Street Stars. The idea initially was developed when I was with a large Philadelphia ad agency, to help a client call attention to his new building on Market Street. So, like the plaques honoring Philly’s musical greats that helped make Broad Street Avenue of the Arts, I visualized making Market Street the Street of Sports Stars with the honorees being selected by the vote of fans. We sold the Daily News on the idea, and even the then mayor of Philadelphia was behind it. There were a lot more details (a parade, banquet, etc.) that I need not relate here. Suffice to say that despite a strong pitch, the client demurred for reasons I don’t even remember.

    A couple of years later, at another agency, this time in New Jersey, I remodeled the idea as an ad revenue generator and approached the Philadelphia Inquirer. The promotion people loved the idea, but it fell apart when we couldn’t be assured that the players selected for the honor would actually accept without payment.

    So as not to make the effort a complete waste of time, the agency submitted the idea in an awards program and won.

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    The whole point of this exercise is to remind creative people that a good idea is not enough. The next—vitally important—step is to sell the idea to the people who can benefit from it. No easy task, many of us in the agency business will readily testify.

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    And selling the idea is still not enough.

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    Then there is the matter of implementation. Many a good idea failed in its execution. While it is fun to develop ideas, the real heroes are those who “make it happen.” I have found that the greatest deterrent to creativity is the knowledge that the idea person has to implement it.

    Past ideas that gave me the greatest pleasure were those that were magnificently implemented and had staying power. Two that come to mind are “The Caring Coach,” an interactive robot that carried a good health message to middle school children and lasted nine years, and “The Royal Pussycat Pageant of America,” a national beauty pageant for housecats that a cat food company sponsored for five years.

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    Ahh, enough reminiscing. Better I start working on a new idea!

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    & spille automater