Will Burns is Changing the Game With Ideasicle

I was recently sent a video by a good friend of mine, Will Burns, about his business, Ideasicle.  The idea behind Ideasicle is that “nothing is unthinkable.”  Will’s new business background at Arnold in Boston inspired him to start his business to help clients solve marketing problems with the use of “Experts.”  These are his collection of secret weapons already working at top level ad agencies around the country, that he brings together on a project basis to solve marketing challenges for clients.  His home page says what Ideasicle provides best,”Revenue generating marketing ideas from elite creative minds, quick and plenty.

Will has always been a champion of a great idea and a great idea is at the heart of everything that we do in our industry.  And, since he does it so well, I thought I would spread the word.

What was the inspiration behind Ideasicle?
Actually, Ideasicle was inspired by my new business job at Arnold Worldwide. I was head of new business and did nothing but pitching. And in pitches the things you need and need fast are ideas. So I invented this intranet site that was a very early form of crowdsourcing within the boundaries of the Arnold network. I’d post requests for ideas and the entire agency was more than willing to oblige. We got all kinds of ideas we wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.

How do your creative experts like coming up with ideas virtually?
One expert said “It’s like an idea video game.” I think that’s because my experts don’t have to worry about meetings or clients. They just focus on the ideas. Another female expert said, “I like that we’re reduced to a typeface.” I love that quote because virtual ideation eliminates all the physical barriers to creativity – barriers we may not even be conscious of. Like, in this case, gender bias. Also, my experts love rubbing elbows with other tier one creatives. Nowhere else could a David Baldwin be riffing ideas with a Liz Gumbinner or Edward Boches. 

Why does Ideasicle stay away from the execution of its own ideas?
We admit we are leaving money on the table with this decision, but we don’t care. Traditional agencies make money not on their ideas, but on the execution of their ideas. It’s a “time of staff” model. As such, agencies are more likely to present ideas they can execute because that’s the only way they can make money. We wanted to avoid all forms of bias. We don’t care if the idea we come up with is free to execute if it will solve the problem.

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What is your favorite kind of project?
Clients come to us for two reasons: they either have a specific need (like a tag line or promotion idea or name for a product) or they have a problem that needs to be solved (like how can we defend against this competitive attack or how can we increase traffic to our stores). We are fine with either, but my personal favorites are more open-ended problems to solve. That’s the essence of creativity, isn’t it? And there’s no better way to solve a problem than with a flurry of ideas.

I understand ad agencies use Ideasicle a lot. Aren’t they already idea companies? What’s the attraction?
Yeah, agencies are about 35% of our business. And I’m not terribly surprised because agencies often have a shortage of talent at any given moment. Plus, they often use Ideasicle to jump start their own creative process in a pitch. For agencies we’ll turn one round of ideation around in 3 days (we’ve done it in only one day) so they can use our ideas for inspiration and not start from scratch. That’s a serious time saver in a pitch.

How do you put a team of four together from your stable of experts? What goes into that?
It depends entirely on the nature of the assignment. About half of my stable of 25 experts are traditional creative directors – writers, art directors, designers. And the other half are also idea people but have a specialization, like public relations, social media, retail marketing, etc. No matter what the assignment is I’ll include a couple creative directors, but then mix it up with two others with different talents and perspectives. That’s the real magic of Ideasicle, seeing writers work with PR people and/or cultural anthropologists. They learn a lot from each other.

What’s your perfect client profile?
In short, anyone who believes that marketing problems can be solved with ideas. We have worked with huge retailers like Staples and CVS, financial institutions like Charles Schwab, microbrews like Saranac, and everything in-between. And I think they enjoy the process because we don’t get all precious and present 3 ideas and try to shove one down their throats. We present ten ideas and don’t try to sell any of them. Changes the whole dynamic.

If you want to learn more about Ideasicle, check out this quick overview video that Will created.

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