Do ideas have legs??

If you ever spend any time with creative agency types, or anybody serious about communication strategy, you might hear them ask the question, ‘does this idea have legs?’
I thought I’d have …

7th June 2007 at 6:31 pm

If you ever spend any time with creative agency types, or anybody serious about communication strategy, you might hear them ask the question, ‘does this idea have legs?’

I thought I’d have a go at explaining what they mean. Because for anyone trying to manage their own brand and communication, without the help of lofty (and expensive) experts, quite often you end up finding your ideas are absolutely legless (having stumbled off the path you hoped they’d head down and instead lie curled up in a ditch rather than impressing the world, and your customers, at large).

An idea ‘with legs’ (aka THE BIG IDEA!), is the core of a concept that sits behind one or many communications. It’s usually tied to the core product or service proposition and brings it to life in a creative way. The difference between an idea that has legs and one that doesn’t, is the much coveted ‘leggy’ idea will run and run and run. In other words, it lends itself to being campaigned (or put another way, you can creatively interpret it over and over again, in fresh and exciting ways).

Your poor legless idea, might be quite charming, visually stunning and terribly witty. But it’s likely to be a one off. Little more than a novelty. A good idea that hits the mark just now, but is likely to feel out of date in a week or two.

A great idea of an idea with legs would be the O2 use of the bubble that has come to represent a revolution in the way mobile phones were marketed to the UK public. O2 have won a host of awards for advertising effectiveness for this big idea – but the proof of just how strong its legs are – is that it’s still being used in its virtually unchanged format a full three years after its inception.

I wish I could give you a great example of an idea with no legs (Sainsbury’s certainly had had one too many for a few years before they finally got Jamie Oliver on board – although trying to substitute a celeb for a good idea is a pretty poor show). But beyond that I’m struggling for a good example – simply because the ads you tend to remember are the ones with some longevity and lovely long legs!

Sara Scott

Sara is a marketing specialist with a wealth of on-line and traditional experience. With award winning credentials as an advertising writer, her career also spans the disciplines of planning and strategy for both B2B and consumer clients. Having worked for one of the the UK's biggest non-London agencies, Sara now works on a consultancy basis for clients large and small.

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  1. Eamon says:

    I am an advertising account planner (the person in an advertising agency who comes up with the ‘big idea’ for an advertising campaign).
    I think your description of ‘ideas having legs’ is spot on.

    Just to add an example to yours, though. For me Guinness (or their account planner / account planners) came up with one of the best ‘ideas with legs’ when they thought of the idea of waiting-for-a-pint-of-Guinness-to-be-poured as something intrigueing and exciting. They developed this idea at a time when other beer brands were trying to associate beer with an exciting night out. But if you think about it, waiting for a pint of beer to be poured can be the opposite to exciting. They actually turned a perceived weakness into a huge strength. Guinness have created numerous campaigns now based around this concept. Goes to show that you don’t always have to look outside your brand for a great idea. Not only that but what some regard as a weakness in a brand can often turn out to be the brand’s greatest strength.

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