First thought wins?

frustrated young business man working on laptop computer at home

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 a first thought.’

There’s a great story we heard once about why the original Blade Runner looks the way it looks.

Ridley Scott had a vision for how he wanted Blade Runner to look, but 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 low budget is actually what defined the all-important and unique feel of the film.

And we’ll never know what Ridley Scott’s first concept of what the film should have looked like with an endless budget, and 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.And there’s hundreds of examples of when a first thought has just “worked”. 

Here at MOP we have 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, by the way, it’s why all in many places public telephones were painted yellow: it’s to encourage you to talk faster and get off the phone – but the simple truth was that we just choose it because our first thought it would look good against the blue of Hamilton Island where the TVC was being made, at a Saab dealer conference.And 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 with the first thought again. That time isn’t wasted if it convince you the first thought was right all along.

A first thought may be very raw but it can also evolve into something that is far deeper than the original thought. There’s a lot of negative connotation in advertising to 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! Just make sure you also remember the first rule of all advertising – Edit, Edit, Edit!

As the awards season heats up we wonder if any of the winners were first thoughts or were they born from weeks of brainstorming? Another interesting question: do first thoughts really exist or are they actually the end of result of years of concepting and a accumulation of many thoughts, then to be sculpted into a Gold Cannes Lion (stuff it a Grand Prix Lion, bugger it Titanium!)?

A first thought could be the answer to your marketing problem and if so, really, what’s the problem?

In the ad industry we all strive to do great work but the real outcome has to be a positive results-oriented one for the client, first and foremost.

So don’t automatically disregard a first thought, it really depends where that first thought came from … and where it’s taking you to.

Pat Langton, Creative Director, and respector of (some) first thoughts.

Author: Stephen Yolland

Director of Creative Strategy and Partner @ Magnum Opus Partners.

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