It’s no longer enough just to have a Big Idea. Now you need to have a Big Idea about how to spread that Big Idea. At this week’s TED Conference in California — the globally-anticipated event with the tagline “Ideas Worth Spreading” — TED organizers announced the winners of the inaugural Ads Worth Spreading Challenge. The contest, which launched back in December, was intended to inspire Internet advertisers to create online videos that people actually want to watch. Given the international acclaim of the TED Talks video clips, it’s clear that TED wants to raise the bar even higher. After all, as the Black Eyed Peas would say, the 30-second video spot is so 2000 and late.
One of the favorite submissions of the judging committe was Chrysler’s “Born of Fire” ad that appeared during the Super Bowl and featured Detroit’s very own Eminem driving a Chrysler 200 through the gritty city: “This isn’t New York City… It’s not the Windy City… or Sin City… And certainly not the Emerald City… This is the Motor City… And this is what we do.” It’s a powerful clip, no matter how many times you watch it.
And it’s not only TED that is turning its attention to the ability of Big Ideas to spread far and wide. Some of the most innovative websites today now are built entirely around an implicit viral component. Consider a crowdfunding site like Kickstarter, where your Big Project only gets funded if you can get enough backers in the “crowd” to support your creative project. Or, think about Groupon, where you only receive the “deal of the day” if enough people believe in the value of the deal. Finally, consider the new Domino Project from the “idea virus” guru Seth Godin, who promises a type of “domino effect” for publishers, in which powerful ideas get spread from person to person online.
The “idea virus” concept, of course, is a very powerful one. What Chris Anderson and the TED team are saying – if I’m interpreting them correctly – is that we as a society have become “inoculated” to many of the ways that we used to get “infected” by these Big Ideas. There are too many antibodies out there, too many messages fighting for our attention that we simply “tune out” most of them. So we need a new way to “infect” people with ideas, to add a little tiger blood to our online messaging.