While rummaging through my sock drawer the other day, I found myself unable to locate a clean, matched pair. I asked my wife if there might be any in the wash. She responded by telling me to check the mismatched sock pile in the laundry room.
The name triggered a Pavlovian response, and I was immediately transported back in time to a major new business pitch we were making.
We were up against some major players and challenged by the prospect to present “ideas that would get an agency fired.” As you might expect, we soon found ourselves struggling to formulate three truly innovative (and agency firing worthy) suggestions.
En route to the pitch, I found myself with extra time to squeeze in a quick workout. After checking into an airport hotel for the night, I searched for my gym socks. Sure enough, one was M.I.A.
Its absence triggered an immediate thought for the upcoming pitch: where DOES a missing sock go? Why does it leave in the first place and what happens to it afterwards? Does it join a league of other missing socks or go it alone like a clothing world version of Robinson Crusoe?
I shared my idea for the missing sock theme with my teammates. Lacking a third idea and weary beyond words, they readily agreed to let me present it to the prospect later that day. I did. I actually brought my one, remaining white sock to the meeting and, at just the right moment, hurled it across the conference room table at the CMO.
Needless to say he was flummoxed. I then escalated his unease by asking, “So, Jeff, where did this poor white sock's mate go? Where do ALL missing socks go? Is there a sock heaven? We'd like to know. In fact, we think EVERY American housewife (their target audience) would like to know and we'd like to suggest a grass roots campaign to find America's missing socks.”
Jeff and his team loved the idea. We were hired on the spot. And, just as quickly, the missing sock idea went, well, missing. It remains M.I.A. to this day.
Most big ideas that win new accounts never see the light of day. Why? There are a number of reasons:
– The prospect's only interested in seeing how creative the contenders can be
– The prospect's really not interested in pushing the envelope and risking failure
– The prospect doesn't have the budget needed to implement the truly big idea.
It can be frustrating to nail a really big concept, have the prospect buy it (and you) and later be told it won't be implemented. But, the subsequent fees can sure ease the pain.
How about you? Have you ever presented great ideas that, despite winning universal acclaim from the client, never saw the light of day? If so, spill the beans. My sock story needs company.