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Moving Madison Avenue: Finding Advertising Ideas Elsewhere

by Martin Lindstrom  |  
December 18, 2007

When I was a kid, I used to read something called the "Blue Paper." It was a publication with a ton of classified ads, all categorized into every possible subject you could think of.

I loved it. But I always wondered whether everything appeared in the paper. To a small boy, the ads represented a world of choice. But what if the Blue Paper really opened up a global marketplace?

Well, we now know what the future held—to this point in history anyway.

Years later eBay appeared—in a shape and format not many could have imagined. Of course, anyone who could have imagined such a revolution is likely to be enjoying a happy retirement by now.

Now imagine the same for great ideas. For decades, advertising agencies have had a monopoly on building great ideas. As I recall, the former CEO of BBDO worldwide once told me, "Our stock is people. Every day the elevator goes up, our stock is full of staff—of ideas-generating people. Every evening our stock is depleted when people leave the building."

Ideas have defined some agencies as great, and others as average, particularly these days, when desktop-publishing and other tools have almost enabled the most amateurish person to imitate a million-dollar designer. We're all equipped with a TV studio in our own homes. If we're online, we could all literally produce and distribute our own Web sites and promotions in minutes—worldwide.

So, how would the world look if all those ideas, pent up in millions of online personalities, were let free? What if, almost like eBay, anyone with great ideas could sell them to anyone who needed them?

Once again, the future is already here.

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Martin Lindstrom ( is the author of Brand Child, BRAND sense, and Buyology (October 2008).

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