Can you copyright or patent a advertsing idea?
We see this as a beginning to a possible partnership or creation of an advertising firm.....
2 attorney answers
Generally, ideas aren't subject to copyright or patent protection. But you can protect this property with a non-disclosure agreement, so that before you disclose your idea to any prospective buyer, you get an agreement so it's understood that you expect compensation for it and are only disclosing it with that expectation.
The problem here is that major companies don't want to sign anything limiting their ability to use ideas out there. They want ideas for free, and will accept donated ideas on their website after you click a submission release that signs away your rights to anything and acknowledges that they may have already independently developed your idea themselves. They're willig to pay advertising agencies, and already have them, and as a practical matter, they're not interested in even great ideas from outside, and it's unlikely that you'd be able to get a face-to-face meeting with their marketing executives.
You could submit your campaign with watermarks and expressions of claimed ownership, sent by provable delivery and advise the recipients that if they want to use what you've created, you expect to be paid. You may want to hire counsel to help you maximize the protection of your property.
Disclaimer: Please note that this answer does not constitute legal advice, and should not be relied on, since each state has different laws, each situation is fact specific, and it is impossible to evaluate a legal problem without a comprehensive consultation and review of all the facts and documents at issue. This answer does not create an attorney-client relationship.
In addition to the likely-unsuccessful "idea submission" approach discussed by Ms. Koslyn, you could write the script for the television commercial -- or better yet write a handful of alternative, similar scripts -- place a copyright notice on each script, register the copyrights, and then pitch the vignettes to whatever ad agency you think would be most receptive. There are many nuances in doing that properly so you need to speak with an intellectual property attorney. As ms. Koslyn notes, "ideas" are very, very difficult to "protect" under the law. To do it right, you need a lawyer.