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IHAVEANIDEA.ORG > articles >  How to Train Ideas to Come When They’re Called: Notes and Advice for Young People in Advertising PART TWO


How to Train Ideas to Come When They’re Called: Notes and Advice for Young People in Advertising PART TWO

Posted on September 7, 2009 and read 5,735 times

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suzannepopesmallpic How to Train Ideas to Come When They’re Called: Notes and Advice for Young People in Advertising PART TWOSuzanne Pope
Assoc. Creative Director|
john st.

This is Part Two of a three-part article. For Part One, click here.

Let’s talk about another process for idea generation. This process isn’t specific to advertising, but it can work very well for what we do. It’s called SCAMPER, and it is attributed to a writer named Bob Eberle.  SCAMPER is an acronym in which each letter suggests at least one exercise we should try when facing any creative challenge.  SCAMPER stands for:

  • substitute
  • simplify
  • combine
  • adapt
  • modify
  • put to other uses
  • eliminate
  • exaggerate
  • rearrange
  • reverse

I’m now going to go through these actions one by one, and show some examples to illustrate how each technique can express itself in advertising.

SUBSTITUTE

How can simple substitution lead to a better ad? Start by thinking of a scene that expresses something completely expected or clichéd about the thing you’re trying to sell.  At the School of Visual Arts, for example, they’re in the business of training people to be spontaneously creative. Of course, it’s an old cliché that spontaneous creativity often gets expressed on paper napkins. But by substituting the expected paper napkin with lined writing paper, the school was able to freshen the cliché and make the deeper point that creativity can be learned (agency: KNARF, New York):

napkin How to Train Ideas to Come When They’re Called: Notes and Advice for Young People in Advertising PART TWO

Substitution also provided the core idea behind a childproofing campaign from john st. in Toronto. Here, the headline “Kids see things differently” is paid off with a shot featuring licorice where you’d expect to see an electrical cord.

licorice How to Train Ideas to Come When They’re Called: Notes and Advice for Young People in Advertising PART TWO

Substitution can also be used with words, as we see in this anonymous student ad:

economiststudent How to Train Ideas to Come When They’re Called: Notes and Advice for Young People in Advertising PART TWO

Again, start with the most mundane sentence that applies to your product or service, and then start playing (agency: CHI and Partners, London):

lexus How to Train Ideas to Come When They’re Called: Notes and Advice for Young People in Advertising PART TWO

Headlines starting with “Objects in the rear view mirror…” are as common as flea market copies of Frampton Comes Alive! on vinyl. But if your substitution is as smart as the one above, I think you can still get away with it.

SIMPLIFY

Simplifying is actually complicated, because it demands that you pare away every consideration that’s extraneous to your core message. And when you’ve spent days or weeks or months thinking about a brand, its core message can easily be lost. But the Green Party kept it front and centre, resisting the telling of a million stories about the environment in favour of telling the most meaningful one of all (agency: Special, Auckland):

greenparty How to Train Ideas to Come When They’re Called: Notes and Advice for Young People in Advertising PART TWO

Simplicity has always been the hallmark of advertising for The Economist. Here, showing nothing but little plastic Monopoly hotels, Ogilvy & Mather, Singapore says everything it needs to about an Economist reader’s prospects for success:

monopoly How to Train Ideas to Come When They’re Called: Notes and Advice for Young People in Advertising PART TWO

COMBINE

Combinations can be expressed in words (as we saw in “Substitute,” above), but it’s the visual mashups that have really dominated the way ad people think in the past fifteen years or so. Sometimes, these combinations can also be great examples of simplification, as we see in this poster for a lung cancer organization (agency: CHI and Partners, London):

lungcancer How to Train Ideas to Come When They’re Called: Notes and Advice for Young People in Advertising PART TWO

Some combinations aren’t necessarily simple, but they still tell their story with exquisite efficiency. This ad shows Jeep as literally fitting perfectly with any extreme in environment (agency: BBDO Proximity, Malaysia):

jeep How to Train Ideas to Come When They’re Called: Notes and Advice for Young People in Advertising PART TWO

ADAPT

We’ve seen examples already of words or images that were altered to adapt to the purposes of the ad. You should also look for ways to adapt your idea to the properties of whatever medium you’re using. A Swedish reality show called “I’d Do Anything For Money” ran this ad in a magazine’s centre spread, using the actual staple as part of its visual (agency: Le Bureau, Stockholm):

pain How to Train Ideas to Come When They’re Called: Notes and Advice for Young People in Advertising PART TWO

An example of adaptation that is simultaneously cruel and hilarious may be found in this anti-McCain campaign from the last U.S. presidential election. Small flags condemned McCain’s various policies, with media provided at no cost by local dogs (agency: Granite Pass, Topanga, California):

mccain1 How to Train Ideas to Come When They’re Called: Notes and Advice for Young People in Advertising PART TWO

mccain2 How to Train Ideas to Come When They’re Called: Notes and Advice for Young People in Advertising PART TWO

MODIFY

Sometimes, the clearest delivery of a message comes from just slightly altering the expected form of its presentation. Hence, a perforated business card for a divorce lawyer (agency: john st., Toronto):

divorce How to Train Ideas to Come When They’re Called: Notes and Advice for Young People in Advertising PART TWO

By offering to share its billboard space with others, a low-priced beer demonstrated its commitment to keeping costs down (agency: Leo Burnett, Toronto).

jamesready1 How to Train Ideas to Come When They’re Called: Notes and Advice for Young People in Advertising PART TWO

jamesready2 How to Train Ideas to Come When They’re Called: Notes and Advice for Young People in Advertising PART TWO

To be concluded here…

Suzanne Pope is Associate Creative Director at john st. in Toronto. She has written copy for TAXI and Ogilvy & Mather, and has taught courses in advertising at Humber College. Suzanne’s work has been recognized by The One Show, Communication Arts, Lürzer’s Archive and several Canadian organizations. Suzanne has been an ihaveanidea contributor since 2003; her An Inconvenient Truth For Copywriters article is one of the most popular articles in ihaveanidea history.

Other Suzanne Pope articles on ihaveanidea include:

The Top Ten Mistakes in Portfolio Development

Glad Tidings for the Young and Terrified

Giving Good Meeting

Life In A Pharma Agency: The Ninth Circle Of Hell, Or Merely The Eighth?







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