The Case for Craft: why Big Details are the new big ideas

While SCRUM/Agile and Design Thinking are old news in many sectors, for many advertising agencies this is still the new, emerging model of working. I’m sure you know the mantra’s: interdisciplinary teams, a good idea can come from anywhere, no more silo’s, everyone is creative. Even the cleaning lady may have a great idea!

That’s all true (and if you can get a client to pay creative fees for the cleaning lady, more power to you I guess).

But agencies fail to see what this means for them. They still look through the hyper-traditional lens of old school advertising: concept versus execution. “Don’t get lost in details now, it’s all about The Big Idea!”

Yeah, well, except it isn’t. Not for you. Not any more.

As regular visitors to this blog know, I’m fascinated with Behavioural Economics, the science of influencing behaviour. Understanding how irrational factors can steer decisions. And how small details and little nudges can make a huge difference.

Behavioural Economics teaches us that Everything Matters.

The direction of the gaze of the person in the picture. Which words come first or last in the headline. The physical distance between the ‘from’ and the ‘for’ price. The colour and shade of the Buy Now!-button. The tense of the verbs used. Whether the POP display has round or sharp edges. An odd or even number of bullet points. How warm or cold the lighting feels.

Big Details are the new big ideas.

Factors like these often influence behaviour much more than any Big Idea. They can actually make organizations hundreds of millions of dollars and pounds. Much, much more than most advertising ideas ever do.

When Everything Matters, craft is king.

Not ideation. So by hiring ‘concepters’ with limited craft skills and proclaiming that anyone can have ideas, ad agencies may become of very limited use to marketers very quickly.┬á Everyone IS creative indeed. So when a company understands Design Thinking, what use would they have for an agency of generalists?

In a world where Everyone Is Creative, externally-hired generalists are useless. Unless you want to run a temporary employment firm.

In a world where Everything Matters, externally-hired specialists are indispensable.

Yes, agencies need T-shaped people. But the T must run deeeeeep. Get people who are obsessed by details. Hire the graphic designer who calls the printer at 5 am because a detail in the colours bothers him. Promote the girl who spends 15 minutes researching the etymology of a word before putting it in her headline.

These are the people who will find your next Big Detail. The one that keeps on growing and growing. Until the details become the idea. In the meantime, if you’re a generalist working at an agency, now is a great time to start applying to client-side jobs.