First thought wins
By Patrick Langton
There’s a saying in advertising that if you’re a creative bod you would have heard a thousand times from your Creative Director, “Well... it’s just a first thought.’
There’s a great story I heard once about why the original Blade Runner looks the way it looks. Ridley Scott had a vision for the film, yet felt he didn’t have the budget to do so, so he used the lack of budget to his advantage and we got the iconic/classic movie we know today.
Ridley Scott’s first thought was that he needed a bigger budget to create his vision yet what made Blade Runner so good was not the budget but the story—and ironically, the look and feel that was forced on Scott through lack of funds. The budget is what defined the all-important and unique feel of the film. And we’ll never know what Ridley Scott’s first thought of what the film should have looked like, thank goodness!
With ever-shrinking budgets from clients, we have to be even more creative with how we achieve great results with less money. Having money is always good but Blade Runner is a perfect example of how being truly creative can give you a great outcome with less budget. A big idea beats a big budget every time.
There are hundreds of examples of a first thought has just “working”. I was told a great story about how RMIT students contacted our agency about the classic Saab commercial as they were studying it in class. The students wanted to know the deep reasoning behind choosing a yellow car.
Now, we could have told the students a long and strategic story about why yellow represented the sun and summer and that yellow is a colour that people don’t see often so it stands out, and it’s all about the fresh new lifestyle experience you can have in a convertible, and anyway, yellow is the colour of speed—that’s actually true. It’s why in many places public telephones were painted yellow, to encourage you to talk faster and get off the phone. But the simple truth was that we chose it because the first thought was that it we thought it would look good against the blue of Hamilton Island, where the TVC was made at a Saab conference. Plus the yellow car was available.
And so a classic TVC was made, which was shown all over the world. Simple as that. Sometimes a first thought is the best thought and other times it’s the worst. Sometimes you start with a first thought, do days of thinking then end up right back where you started, at your first thought. That time isn’t wasted if it convinces you the first thought was right all along.
Competition is rife in our industry, to come up with the newest, trendiest idea, when sometimes it’s the obvious/first thought that should be done. Competition, like it or not, is what keeps the industry going. It’s what makes us win pitches and awards, it’s what keeps creative teams competing against each other—and a first thought could be that winner.
A first thought may be very raw but it can also evolve into something that is far deeper than the original thought. In our industry there’s a lot of negativity directed at the very idea of first thoughts—yet the obvious idea can also be the simplest to understand, and therefore clearer to the consumer. Discard first thoughts at your peril!
We've just seen the big winners at Cannes & D&AD—and you have to wonder any of the winners were first thoughts, or born from weeks of brainstorming? Another interesting question: do first thoughts really exist or are they actually the end of result of years of conceptualising and accumulation of many thoughts, then to be sculpted into a Gold Cannes Lion (stuff it a Grand Prix Lion, bugger it Titanium)?
But whether it wins awards or not, a first thought could be the best and clearest answer to a marketing problem, and if so what’s the problem? We all strive to do great work but the outcome has to be a positive one for the client, first and foremost. So don’t disregard a first thought—keep thinking and see if you come full circle.