Successfully pitching an idea, whether ad or film or book, is a challenging undertaking. We decided to compile some of the great ideas which made their way past the ‘no’ and impacted millions while making millions. One method of testing an idea’s greatness is indeed, making decision-makers a bit uncomfortable. It also goes to show you it is easier to say no, than have the ability to recognize a great idea and say yes. That truly is a remarkable talent.
1. 1984, Chiat/Day
Did you know the ad that launched Apple played once and only once? It was the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII and it almost didn’t happen. The Apple board detested the spot. According to Advertising Age, Steve Wozniak offered to pay personally for half of the air time before the board finally approved it. It mentions Apple only once.
2. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert M. Pirsig
This classic was rejected 121 times before it was finally published, taking the Guinness Book of Records top spot for rejections of best-selling books. It has sold millions of copies since its debut in 1974.
3. The Usual Suspects screenplay, Christopher McQuarrie
The screenplay was rejected by every top studio and minor studio in Hollywood. Interestingly, the script had been written specifically for Kevin Spacey. After having another screenplay of McQuarrie’s filmed by Bryan Singer and entered into Sundance, McQuarrie was able to secure independent funding. The screenplay won numerous awards including the Academy Awards in both the U.S. and Britain, and the Spirit Award. The Writers Guild of America recently voted it one of the top 100 screenplays of all time.
4. Walt Disney
While not an idea, he was an idea factory. Fired from the Kansas City Star in 1919, the paper’s editor said Disney “lacked imagination and had no good ideas.” Really?
5. The Big Bang Theory, Chuck Lorre and Bill Prady
The first pilot failed – not picked up by a network. The second pilot failed – not picked up by a network. And finally the show was picked up in 2007. It has been on the air for 8 seasons.
6. “The Most Interesting Man in the World” Dos Equis, Jeff Kling
According to Ad Age, Jeff Kling pitched the idea to the brand manager at the time who rejected it asking for something more conventional. Evidently, the brand manager wanted a campaign depicting Mexico and using a Mariachi band (ouch). Mr. Kling kept pitching. When a new brand manager was hired, he eventually succeeded in gaining the client’s confidence and the iconic campaign was given wings.
7. Billie Jean, Michael Jackson
Not only did master producer Quincy Jones have issues with the song, which he eventually overcame, but MTV refused to air its music video. The policy of MTV at that time was that black performers weren’t ‘rock’ enough. Shocking. Walter Yetnikoff, the president of CBS, prevailed by threatening to remove all CBS artists’ videos from MTV, in addition to publicly exposing the racist policy. MTV, as we know, relented and the video of Billie Jean aired.