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Collaboration Counts

Jeff MacFarland

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Contrary to popular belief, most agencies aren’t full of skateboard-riding hipsters who drive sports cars, brainstorm all day, and exist solely on pizza, cigarettes, sex and booze … unfortunately.

It should also be noted that great ideas aren’t things a lone creative director haphazardly stumbles upon while pretending to be Lady Gaga in the shower. These are the kinds of stereotypes that exist only in the minds of Hollywood producers, or the annals of advertising history.

While we’re led to believe big ideas just happen, more often than not they are the culmination of hours of client Q&A, qualitative and quantitative research, a smart strategy, a great creative brief, time, more time, and lots and lots of coffee.

Simply put, the best ideas are truly a collaborative and almost subconscious, all-agency effort, much of which happens behind the scenes and without fanfare. And It’s that effort, and that kind of teamwork, that pays dividends.

For instance, take a look at this piece on the origins of Goodby’s “got milk?” campaign:

Goodby’s team fielded qualitative research and learned that many consumers indeed linked milk with sweet, sticky snacks. Pushing further, the researchers flipped around the question: how do people feel when they’re eating something that demanded milk to wash it down, but don’t have milk in the house? Focus group respondents placed in this situation were upset, they felt deprived. …

Goodby and his team used this consumer insight as the spark for what came to be called the deprivation strategy: rather than selling milk as a complement to certain foods, instead the strategy became to remind milk drinkers of the anxiety and disappointment that came when milk wasn’t available at crucial moments.


Obviously, Goodby’s “got milk?” idea was firmly rooted in research and a sound strategy, but there was a lot more to it than that. The California Milk Processor Board had to provide the raw data and insights before anybody could even think of putting pen to paper. And after research, strategy, and coming up the big kahuna of an idea, media, PR, designers, copywriters, developers, etc., had to take it to new places and make it sing.

“got milk?”

“Just do it.”

“This Bud’s for you.”

These are wildly creative, memorable and effective campaigns. And maybe it was a creative director, or an account supervisor, or a network admin who uttered the tagline that would eventually be used on a billboard in Times Square. But when it comes to the market of ideas, no one person or department has it cornered. It truly takes a village to create a great idea.


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