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There is no limit to what a man can do so long as he does not care a straw who gets the credit for it. ~ C.E. Montague

A noble thought no doubt.

And one that’s pretty damned difficult to remember when you know you’re the one that came up with the idea, then watched as someone else crafted the snot out of it, then went up on stage repeatedly (without you) to collect all those awards, then was courted by every wheelbarrow-full-of-money-totting CEO looking to transform their business through “ideas”.As long as you know you came up with the idea that’s all that matters right?What if you’re the only one that knows?After all, there isn’t a line on award show entry forms for “The Person Who Came up With The Idea.”Maybe there should be.

First of all, whenever a campaign strikes gold it immediately goes into every single portfolio of anyone that was in striking distance of that campaign.

“Yes well, I found the stock photography for the client presentation. That counts doesn’t it?”

Second of all, from my experience in my past life as a recruiter, what clients (the President or the Creative Director doing the hiring) always wanted to know was, “Who came up with the idea.”

No one really knows.

But when you ask, everyone thinks they came up with the idea. Gets confusing. And frustrating for the person who KNOWS they came up with the idea.

Maybe if the agency had to agree whose idea it was when it came time to put a name on that line, it would clarify things. Or would agencies put everyone’s name on that line? Or would a narcissist ECD insist that their name is ALWAYS included on that line? Would it get stupid? Or would we be bigger than that? I would hope so.

This conversation started almost a year ago, when a friend of mine (a well known and respected ECD) was sharing with me the notion that the IDEA should also be listed on award show entries.

I didn’t give it much thought at the time. Honestly I dismissed it, because I found the notion distasteful. That’s not how we are trained to be and think in this business. One for All, Team, Collaboration, Rah-Rah-Rah. That’s how we roll right?

But since then I’ve watched how ideas are handled, how credit is given, how different careers are affected by ideas, or the absence thereof, and come to agree with him. Yes. It does matter. A lot.

Don’t ideas change businesses? Don’t ideas build the careers of the most prolific idea generators? Doesn’t nearly every agency website talk about the importance of ideas – how they come up with ideas – why ideas matter – what their process is for coming up with better ideas – the business results created by ideas.

(This doesn’t even include the number of (ahem) creative things we see with um, light bulbs on them.)

Of course ideas change businesses. Many businesses ARE an idea.

So why not give credit where credit is due?

But in science, the credit goes to the man who convinces the world, not to the man to whom the idea first occurs. ~ Sir Frances Darwin

How true is this today? Two words: Social media.

What used to be execution, often IS the idea now.

A couple of weeks ago I saw an installation done for a running shoe company that – while impeccably executed – was a pretty simple idea.

I sent it to my same friend with the comment that I didn’t understand the ‘idea’. He replied, “That’s what it’s all about now.”

Was it the idea that made it go viral? No it was the execution. There were a million ways it could have fallen flat, without the attention to detail that made it famous. It was the attention to detail that made us share it with our friends – not the idea of a bunch of basketball players standing frozen in an open square in California.

Who even knows when an idea starts anyway?

Was the person who said “Just Do It” the person who came up with idea?

Or was it the person who was sitting with him saying, ‘Just Be It”, “Just Be You’, “Just” “Do It” and a hundred variations on that thought that finally caused the Eureka moment for the person to say, “Just Do It!”

Again, without impeccable execution would the Nike tagline be as well loved and embraced as it has been for the past 20 years? Probably not.

My point is – that it’s not just about writing and art direction and production and directing, and editing and voice over and talent. Although you can get pretty far just by making craft your thing.

But as much as I laud the patience of a craftsman (as I believe we all do), I still believe that people with the ability to generate a lot of ideas over the span of a career are still the ones who are always in demand.

So why not add another line to that award entry form and have credit go where credit is due?

If it was your idea, wouldn’t you want your name on that line? I know I would. Even though I’ve been trained not to admit it.

~ heidi