In An Imperfect World, Intelligent Iteration Is A Crucial Skill

Picture 2Eighteen years ago, photographer John Terence Turner created this instant classic for Nike.  The shot captures a lone runner mid-stride in one shaft of light amidst the shadowed canyons of Seattle and features the brilliantly understated caption, or perhaps even encapsulation: “There is no finish line.”

I flashed back to this visual after listening to Mark Earl’s August 11 video clip on “3 Minute Ad Age.” Mark is now an author but as the ex-Head of Planning for Ogilvy London and Europe, he has some very intelligent viewpoints on marketing in this social age.

Primarily, he questions the wisdom of advertisers’ perpetual quest for “The Big Idea.”  Mark believes that it’s unrealistic to expect a single creative concept will span the incredible diversity of viewpoints in a global marketplace.  Life isn’t just multiple choice, it’s multiple solution as well.  So why should we place one big bet?  Wouldn’t it be smarter to lay down a number of little bets?

Scientists refer to the latter as ‘the iterative method’ while those of us who were liberal arts majors might be more inclined to just call it ‘common sense.’  How valuable would it be if we could get over our industry-wide predilection for polishing and instead, crank up the production machine and generate a number of good ideas, with the caveat that once we produced and shared them, we’d analyze their in-market impact?  We could test for things like sales results, engagement and favorability.  More importantly, we could then try to assimilate those results into actionable guidelines for future work.  It’s the equivalent of firing a cannon, seeing where the shell hits, and then making incremental adjustments to bring each subsequent shot closer and closer to your target.

Learn and apply: it’s a simple notion really.  Unfortunately, it’s far less simple to be honest about what we learn and disciplined with subsequent applications.  But we can try.

Because as the ad says, there is no finish line.  If there were, the Nike brand would still be about exhorting yourself toward physical self-improvement instead of evolving to the culture-shaping dynamo they’ve become.

By Dennis Ryan, CCO, Element 79