A Weber Shandwick panel today talked about the Holy Grail-like hunt for the “alpha idea,” a concept that crosses platforms, channels, continents, minds and hearts, during an Advertising Week presentation made at B.B. King’s Blues Club in Times Square.

Christine Cea, director of marketing communications, Unilever; Gail Heimann, vice chair, Weber Shandwick, and Mark Burrell, co-founder, Tongal

Gail Heimann, vice chair at WS, moderated the panel that included clients Cristine Cea, director of marketing communications at Unilever, and Mark Burrell, co-founder of social platform company Tongal.

Heimann spoke about how an alpha idea is a disruptive force that defies conventional wisdom. An examples: a boutique hotel ran a “Stay the Night. Steal the Art,” promotion that had guests trying to pilferage a Banksy artwork.

The WS exec cited the Israeli-Palestinian blood donation drive that was forged by the Shimon Peres Foundation, an organization dedicated to peace in the Mideast. That Cannes Award-winning campaign carried the theme, “Could you hurt somebody who has your blood running in their veins.

Cea highlighted the work of Wharton School assistant professor of marketing Jonah Berger, who believes it’s better to create “contagious talkable content” than to target influencers.

He developed the ASPECTS model to spur “talkability. The seven ASPECTS points are “Advertise themselves” (Apple’s white ear buds), “Social Currency” (people care about what others think about them), “Practical Value” (dining, technology and education sections are most viral sections of the New York Times), “Emotion” (encourages people to share), “Common Ground” (weather, sports and food topics connect with people) and “Triggered” (cues to remind people of a product).

Heimann sees the need for communications people to “re-calibrate” the big story mentality to the “most engaging stories” orientation.

For instance, the media in 2011 devoted mush space to the killing of Osama bin Laden, Japanese earthquake and Casey Anthony murder trial.

Yet, the Wall Street Journal’s “most shared” story of the past year was the one about “Tiger Mom,” who famously returned a birthday card to her daughter because it wasn’t good enough, while “The Happy Marriage is the ‘Me’ Marriage” was the No. 1 viral story of the New York Times.

The big idea is dead. The small idea may not be big enough. It takes an Alpha Idea. An idea powerful enough to transcend the collision of media, the onslaught of emerging technology and the relentless spawning of new channels, platforms and consumer sensibilities.

Learn how to recognize and capture one and what do with it when you've got it.