I thought I had a bright idea a few weeks ago. I heard a commercial on breakfast radio, finishing with the line “and to enter the competition, go to doubleyoudoubleyoudoubleyou-dotcompanynamedotcodotUKforwardslashnewcompetition.” My first thought was: ‘How many takes were needed to get this right?’ My second thought was: ‘How many listeners have pen and paper handy to write this down; how many are already on a computer or smartphone at 6:30am and how many others will remember this lengthy URL later when they are online?’
Print publications have overcome the problem of lengthy URLs by using QR codes or watermarked images. Scanning either of these with your smartphone will take you straight to the website in question. Wouldn’t it be useful if you could download an app that did the same with an audio quick response (AQR) code or sound signature? A little parcel of sound could be embedded in the commercial, outside the range of human hearing so it doesn’t interfere with your listening experience, triggering an instruction to your smartphone to go to a website. This could work with radio, TV, recorded music, PAs and so on and the commercial potential is phenomenal with a capital ‘F’.
It seemed to me that one of the companies that is already expert in music recognition software might find this a profitable avenue to explore, so I visited their website. Their customer feedback form is accompanied by this warning:
“Please do not tell us anything that contains new or original ideas, in respect of which you might want, now or in future, to claim any form of proprietary rights. Please do not submit any such ideas, original creative material, suggestions or other work in any form to us. We ask this because we want to avoid potential misunderstandings or disputes if our products might seem similar to ideas submitted to us.”
… which is fair enough, so I decided to give them just enough information to whet their appetite and suggested they sign an NDA (non-disclosure agreement). Again, to be fair to them, they did take the trouble to reply a few days later, saying:
“Thank you for your interest in [our company]. Unfortunately, we have a number of high priority projects in the works at the moment and are currently unable to evaluate other opportunities. I’m sorry we couldn’t be more helpful and wish you the best of luck with your efforts.”
This is pretty much what I expected, having had similar experiences before. At least they were courteous and I accept the reason for their response.
So, although my idea was at least a year too late, it makes me wonder how many genuinely good ideas never get the opportunity to be developed? You can’t patent an idea, so there is no way to protect it from exploitation, and most of us lack the resource or wit to develop them ourselves.
In a world of seven billion souls, even if good ideas and the people who have them are rare, there must be many good ones that never see the light of day. Some of these might benefit mankind; others might just make somebody lots of money. Either way, it’s a shame nobody wants them.
So, to answer my question at the top of this post, bright ideas don’t need to go anywhere to die; they die because they have nowhere to go.
If you have any bright ideas about a global suggestion box, or some other process to develop ideas that gives fair credit and attribution to the originator, I would love to hear about it.