Beyond the Big Idea: What Marketers need from their Ad Agencies.

10 red balloons have been hidden around the U.S. and you have to find them.  How long would it take you? Could you do it in 4 weeks , 6 months, a year?  MIT Media Lab‘s Dr. Riley Crane took that challenge, which last month was presented by the Pentagon’s DARPA, and with his team, used social media to accomplish the task in just 8 hours and 52 minutes! DARPA’s intent for the balloon study was to determine if “in the 40 years since the creation of the internet it could actually be used to solve real world problems.“ So what does this have to do with advertising?  Arguably, selling more Coke is not a pressing world problem for anyone but Coca Cola, Inc. But there’s an interesting parallel between the search for those 10 balloons and the advertising industry. Ad agencies are facing real challenges to their value proposition and the outcome of the DARPA experiment is indicative of how social networks have changed the advertising industry forever.  DARPA’s experiment (and MIT’s approach) can offer clues about how agencies can make this industry shift work for them—rather than feeling threatened as the ground moves below their feet.  And it’s a cautionary tale for clients as well. The new big idea Social networks (and by extension, crowdsourcing) have helped bring about the democratization of the big idea, which is probably one of the biggest shifts to our industry in the last 50 years.  Marketers now know their agencies aren’t the sole generators of solutions.  This shift is changing how clients compensate their agencies—or at least the value placed on previously highly-valued goods—like...