What’s the “BIG IDEA”?


“Big ideas” are the lifeblood of copywriters.

Every successful ad, sales letter, even marketing campaign has, at its core, a unique and compelling idea that captured people’s attention, made them want to find out more and allowed them to embrace the product.

Copywriters spend a lot of time coming up with new “ideas.” Sometimes as much as 50 percent of the time you spend on a project is spent finding and honing the big idea upon which you’ll base your ad. It’s the most challenging – and at the same time, fun – part of the job.

When you have a very strong big idea you know it. You’ll know it because you’ll be excited about it – and you’ll know it because your ad will practically write itself.

Because ideas play such an important roll, copywriters are always trying to uncover a “formula” for creating a successful big idea. We can’t be sure we’ve found the answer yet… but for now, we like master copywriter Mike Palmer’s take. He says a big idea is simply something that stops people in their tracks because it’s new, interesting and compelling.

Mike says a successful big idea has four key ingredients:

1. Originality – something new that hasn’t been seen before

2. Intrigue – to keep your reader reading

3. A direct or implied benefit – a “reward” for reading on

4. Affirmation – a confirmation of something your reader already believes in

One of the surest ways to come up with a big idea that’s compelling is through research. Read as much about the product you’re selling as possible.

Remember the story of David Ogilvy and how he found the inspiration for his famous Rolls Royce campaign? While leafing through a trade journal he found a single quote from a Rolls Royce engineer: “At 60 miles an hour the loudest noise in this new Rolls Royce comes from the electric clock.” That quote became the headline of one of the most successful ads Mr. Ogilvy ever wrote!


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