How to keep great ideas alive – even when the client says no

A firm “no thanks” from a client can seem like the end of the road for your brilliant idea. But not necessarily, says Wunderman Thompson CCO Daniel Bonner


We’ve all had the experience. You or your team dream up the most inspiring idea. The one. It couldn’t possibly fail. It is certain to take the brand and business to the next level. And so, you present it, full of joy, ambition, and confidence, and the client says, “That’s a really great idea, but … no.”

You could be forgiven at this point for walking away and trying something different, but this is definitely not your only available move. “What?”, you say. I know. But lean in and listen up.

Throughout my entire career – and possibly as far back as college, I’ve found that the most powerful, unconventional, inspiring, game changing, and frankly worth-doing feats of creativity always encounter strong objections or moments of doubt and lingering gloom – before they eventually get made. In short, nothing that ever changed something happened without someone, somewhere, declaring a defiant “No!”

So how do you keep an idea on life support until the client’s ready for it? If you keep bringing up the same idea again and again after rejection, you can come off as arrogant and annoying. But by their nature, many innovative ideas are unusual and sound risky. That makes them hard to sell and easy to reject. But you can successfully reintroduce them if you follow a few simple rules.