A test for creating ideas people care about

There’s been a huge shift in how brands communicate with people over recent years. Fundamentally we’ve moved from interrupting someone and shouting at them, to engaging with someone and giving them something entertaining or useful.

This isn’t an insight, and I’m stating the obvious. But.

As the nature of communications has changed, and the way in which they are received by consumers is different to the past, it’s worth revisiting a key question and how it is framed moving forward:

What makes a good idea?

Given society itself and the digital social ecosystem has evolved to embrace new technologies and ways of communicating, it’s a question that needs constant reassessment, and if you’re reading this post in the future you may want to disregard it as out of date.

In the past, the process of critiquing was agreeing to what degree an idea could interrupt and change the behaviour of a consumer, and for some media channels one could continue to argue the virtues of that. But not for all, and specifically Social Media.

And that’s because of a very simple truth: people need to want to engage with something on Social Media, they’re not forced to view it as they are with some traditional ATL media.


There’s a simple test that I use when critiquing ideas (regardless of media channel) and I find it very useful.

Giveashitability. Does anyone care, and will anyone share?

(I’m not 100% sure when I first started using this terminology. A cursory glance of google shows me my friend Chungaiz blogged about it here and linked to the old digital arm of Engine (where I worked for a while). So maybe I picked it up there? There is also a blog post where my friend James uses it too so maybe I picked it up from him and the Engine thing is a coincidence? Regardless I am not claiming ownership, merely stating I use the term.)

It’s a very simple test and one that requires honesty and objectivity, and clients and creatives sometimes don’t like to hear it. But as a Planner it’s our job to be the voice of the consumer. And be that voice we must. Objectively, not subjectively.

Will they care?

You see, when people are bombarded with branded messages (the cliché is about 3000 times a day) then there has to be something really clever to cut through to make them notice, and if you’re really lucky to make a positive impact with them.

And the first part of that is really simple — does the audience give a shit about what you’re showing them? If so, why?

It’s key this question is thought about from the point of view of the target audience and with critical reasoning. Dave Trott makes a great argument for this in his book Creative Mischief.

He talks about the difference between being objective and being subjective when critiquing creative ideas and introduces a simple model. Don’t say “I like it…”, but start all comments with “It’ll work because” or “It won’t work because” as it forces you to be the consumer (not yourself), and give critical reasoning for your statement — not just emotional subjective feedback.

If you do this, and you’re honest and have a good old heated debate backed up with evidence then you’re going in the right direction.

Will they share?

Once you’ve got past the stage and (hopefully) all agree that the right people will give a shit about the creative idea, then there’s the question of sharing. Now, whilst not all briefs require an element of sharing, it’s usually not something anyone will argue with as it amplifies any activity and adds an element of trust as it’s usually your friends that share stuff with you. (Your trusted curators of Facebook or Twitter, for example.)

So, it’s worth bearing this in mind when you’re looking at ideas too. I referred to it as Distraction Bias a few year back, as it’s something you’re putting out there to hope your friends see it. You want them to be distracted from what they’re doing and engage with (and further share) the content you’re sharing with them.

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And again, that’s not a science, but you must think about it from the point of view of the consumer, not from your point of view as a marketer.

A simple thing to try.

So next time you think you’ve got an idea, or you are critiquing an idea just have this simple question to hand, and think from the consumer’s point of view. The Creative Director may not like all your feedback, but if you back it up with critical reasoning it’ll be difficult for him or her to argue against it. This isn’t a crusade against emotional ideas — far from it — it’s just adding some objective thinking to the process.

And, remember, the fundamental reason for this is to interrogate an idea to give it the best possible chance of being successful when it’s unleashed into the wild… that’s what your Creative Director wants, it’s what you want and crucially it’s what your clients want.

Regional Head of Planning (APAC) at Iris worldwide based in Singapore. My own views and no-one else's. iammarkhadfield.com iammarkhadfield@gmail.com

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