Define: Big Idea in Advertising

Big ideas are fresh and provoking ideas that hold a viewer’s attention.

They stimulate the mind and–many times–stir the emotions. Big ideas are simple and easy to understand. They are not lists of benefits.

See also: Thought experiment: What is marketing?

In 1983 Ogilvy wrote, “I doubt if more than one campaign in a hundred contains a big idea.” It’s still true today.

These campaigns have big ideas:


Big ideas are new ways of looking at old concepts. They redefine how we think about the world and ourselves. For example, Malcom Gladwell’s concept of The Tipping Point is a big idea.

Here are some other thoughts around big ideas:

What are your favorite big ideas? Please feel free to leave a comment with a link to the ad or jot down your thoughts on the ‘definition of a big idea.’

12 thoughts on “Define: Big Idea in Advertising

  1. The mastercard is not a good example of a big idea, not even in your own terms. People mistake funny/good ads with big idea ones.

    1. Thank you, Gio. I respectfully disagree. The Mastercard idea that “there are some things money can’t buy–for everything else, there is Mastercard” turned all of shopping into Mastercard mindshare. And when speaking about things money couldn’t buy (love, courage, noble character), people used the same Mastercard slogan to joke about it in movies, late night comedy shows, and around water coolers.

  2. Thanks for your question, Olivia. The difference between a big idea idea and a selling point is that a big idea is the biggest selling point there is. A normal selling point is just a mere feature or benefit. Big ideas connect emotionally, mentally, physically and sometimes spiritually with the viewer and causes them to experience your product before they even buy it.

  3. So big idea is not the message of the ads but the way of selling the product? Isn’t that we call selling point? Thank you for reading.

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