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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 THREE


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

Posted on September 8, 2009 and read 8,010 times

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

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

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

PUT TO ANOTHER USE

What happens if you do something unexpected with your product or your medium or an everyday object? Many years ago, Volkswagen found a way to make the shape of their car say something about thrift in tough economic times (agency: Doyle Dane Bernbach, New York):

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

A cruise line was able to show housework as an opportunity to fantasize (agency: Grey Northwest, Vancouver):

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

cruise2 How to Train Ideas to Come When They’re Called: Notes and Advice for Young People in Advertising PART THREE

And in its childproofing campaign, again, Toronto’s john st. made the point that kids quite naturally put things to other uses:

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

ELIMINATE

Looking for things you can eliminate is always part of getting to a good ad. Car ads typically show the vehicle, for example, but your message might actually be stronger without it. This ad (from DraftFCB Argentina) is ostensibly about a Mini driver-training course, but the real point of the ad is the small size and nimbleness of the Mini itself:

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

Sometimes, the absence of something can be what carries your idea. This wordless poster was done for a Canadian literacy organization. When the red button was pushed, a recorded voice explained that the poster had no words because millions of Canadians would be unable to read them (agency: TAXI, Toronto).

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

EXAGGERATE

Think of what your product or service does.  Then, ask yourself what might happen if that feature were outrageously exaggerated.  That appears to have been the approach taken by DDB New Zealand in their work for Durex Play lubricant:

durex1 How to Train Ideas to Come When They’re Called: Notes and Advice for Young People in Advertising PART THREE

durex2 How to Train Ideas to Come When They’re Called: Notes and Advice for Young People in Advertising PART THREE

REVERSE or REARRANGE

Turning something on its head or sideways or scrambling it will definitely make it a little more interesting to look at. The challenge then is how to make that visual disruption part of a relevant idea about your product or service. DDB London did it brilliantly by embracing the love-it-or-hate-it nature of Marmite.  By turning these ads upside down or sideways, the reader gets a completely different message about the product:

marmite1 How to Train Ideas to Come When They’re Called: Notes and Advice for Young People in Advertising PART THREE

marmite2 How to Train Ideas to Come When They’re Called: Notes and Advice for Young People in Advertising PART THREE

marmite3 How to Train Ideas to Come When They’re Called: Notes and Advice for Young People in Advertising PART THREE

And the notion of rearranging makes perfect sense when you’re talking about Scrabble, as we see in these great ads from JWT Santiago:

scrabble1 How to Train Ideas to Come When They’re Called: Notes and Advice for Young People in Advertising PART THREE

scrabble2 How to Train Ideas to Come When They’re Called: Notes and Advice for Young People in Advertising PART THREE

SCAMPER is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to ideas about ideas. If you Google “idea generation techniques,” you’ll see what I mean. But if you want the advice of someone who understands the particular anguish of the advertising person, I recommend Tom Monahan’s excellent book, The Do-It-Yourself Lobotomy. Tom was formerly one of our industry’s top creative directors. Today, he’s a full-time consultant on creativity.  In Lobotomy, Tom offers techniques that you might find more practical than going through all the steps in SCAMPER. Plus, some of his techniques can be used in conjunction with SCAMPER or any other method.

A technique that’s easy for anyone to use is the one Tom calls 100-MPH Thinking. It involves sitting down (alone or with a partner; it doesn’t matter) and jamming out as many ideas as you possibly can in a set period of time. Quantity is everything here, and the technique specifically forbids judging anything as good or bad at this early stage. Judging your output is the only bad idea here, because it either discourages you or it lulls you into thinking that you’ve landed on something good and can therefore stop working.

180º Thinking is another great technique from Lobotomy. It challenges us to look for things that are counterintuitive, for things that will initially seem just plain wrong. Take upside-down shampoo bottles, for example. They make perfect sense because they mean less waste and less struggle when you get to the last of your shampoo. Anyone reading this probably grew up with them, but I remember the first time I saw one.  I stared at the drug store shelf and went, “Whoa.” The idea was that different, that unexpected. You can apply the technique to advertising, too. When Volkswagen exhorted us to “Think small,” when Avis proudly announced that they were No. 2 in the car rental business, they were practising 180º Thinking. And when Budweiser thought to turn its bottle cap upside down, it created an icon of breathtaking power and simplicity (agency: Downtown Partners DDB).

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

The final Lobotomy technique I’ll mention here (but by no means the final technique discussed in the book) is that of Intergalactic Thinking. It involves borrowing inspiration from a field as distant as possible from the one in which we would logically work. Fashion designers are masters of Intergalactic Thinking, which is why trends in fashion can have people looking like combat soldiers or prison inmates or porn stars. If you scroll back through the ads in this article, you’ll see that many of them get their power by using imagery that is at least a little foreign to whatever is being discussed in the ad.

There are bits of advice that are timeless and discussed in pretty much any idea-generation technique: You should never look for The One Idea, and you should never stop at the first good idea. You should also force yourself to work within the confines of your brief, no matter how restrictive it is. I often see junior creatives disregard those limitations, and it always messes them up. Archeologists rope off one square metre at a time. That way, whatever they’re exploring gets explored deeply. You should do the same. As Leonardo da Vinci said, “Small rooms discipline the mind; large rooms distract it.”

There are some other things I can tell you about idea generation. They probably appear in lots of books, but I tripped and fell on them all by myself. For starters, if you’re a writer who’s stuck for ideas, try writing your body copy first. It will free you from worrying about the larger task at hand, and your body copy might trigger a thought that you would have otherwise missed. (By the way, this exercise helps even if you’re planning an ad with no copy at all.) Another bit of advice: Never hold ideas in reserve. I’m embarrassed to say that I tried this a few times, thinking that it would help me if I got sent back by either my creative director or the client. It always made things worse, and I learned the hard way to give as much as I could every time out.

This last point leads to the single most important thing I can tell you about ideas. It’s an attitudinal thing, a trick of the mind. Ideas are the currency of our business, and so it’s tempting to think of them as rare and precious and deserving of protection. This is a fatal mistake, and it reflects an underlying dread that you simply can’t produce as many ideas as you need. But if you give in to that dread, if you starting treating ideas as if they were Faberge eggs or Ming vases, they will eventually become just as rare. Western psychology would describe this as a self-fulfilling prophecy; New Age types would call it the product of negative energy. But it doesn’t matter why it happens. It just does. So the next time you sit down to work, tell yourself that there are at least ten million good solutions to the problem at hand. Tell yourself that you’d better have a lot of paper ready, because when the ideas start coming, you’ll be scribbling like crazy to keep up with the flow. You might not believe this consciously, but your unconscious mind is a lot more trusting, so keep sending the message. And when you turn off your computer at the end of the day, be able to say truthfully that you have nothing left in the tank. If you can start thinking of ideas as being endless and everywhere, I promise you more of them will come your way.

Download the entire article (all 3 parts).

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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