Idea vs execution

If you had to go for the supremacy of one, which would you choose?

Would you rather have a great idea poorly executed or a dismal idea brilliantly executed?

For me it’s the latter every time.

I’ve written before about how there are plenty of idea-less ads that have turned out to be absolutely brilliant (e.g.: Whassssuuupp, Can I Kick It?, almost any headline-visual-body copy press ad…), but if a dismal execution has been applied to a great idea the result is always poor.

How many times have you read a script that doesn’t look like much, only to see its flawless execution elevate it to the greats? That’s where the good stuff happens. The idea is only the very beginning of what is usually a very long process of collaboration. Look what a great typographer, photographer, DOP or director can add to something so-so (as far as Jonathan Glazer is concerned, you need to allow a third of the ad’s creation to happen at the shoot so that the unexpected moments of genius can be allowed space to shine).

Of course, greatness most often occurs when idea and execution are both at the top of their game, but all the great planning, dialogue and conceptual nuance can come to naught if the execution is shite.

I watched a documentary on Sir John of Hegarty the other day. He told a story about this ad:

On the surface a great idea that would have worked brilliantly in the 80s Levi’s campaign. But when Sir H first saw the cut he was aghast: the music was poor and it deflated the whole thing. He was crushed at the utter failure and fell into a huge panic about what to do next. Then they changed the music and a classic was born. 1-0 to execution.

The same thing happened with Sony Paint, where a crappy intial track was swapped for a music-less version, which then won best ad at the BTAAs. When it came out I recall Graham Fink writing in Private View about music being 50% of the final ad’s success. If that’s the case then the idea can only responsible for less (much less) than half the quality of the finished film.

Execution: it’s not just there for the nasty things in life.