Developing Creative Ideas

Developing Creative Ideas

The development of creative advertising is not an easy process and those responsible for its development – i.e. art directors and copywriters – need to be able to identify with the target audience.
When developing and analysing advertising ideas, creative directors, account planners and clients regularly ask the question: ‘What is the big idea?’ 
David Ogilvy once said, ‘It takes a big idea to attract the attention of consumers and get them to buy your product. Unless your advertising contains a big idea, it will pass like a ship in the night’
So what exactly is “the big idea”? This is a difficult question to answer because whether or not one thinks an idea is highly creative (or big in this context), is subjective. The process of coming up with creative ideas is not just about making advertising stand out simply because it is different. To help market a brand, creative advertising, or the big idea, must be:
  • Relevant
  • Original
  • Impactful
  • Supportive of the marketing and advertising strategies
For the purposes of this article, we will discuss the techniques developed by James Webb Young, an  advertising agency executive who published a guide in 1965 called A Technique for Producing Ideas. Although they’re over five decades old, these techniques are as relevant today as they were when first written and the book was recently re-published.


1. Immersion

During this stage the focus is on learning specifically about the issue. Secondly, learning about more general issues may help in the development of ideas. The internet is a valuable resource in this regard as it is often quite easy to identify subject matter that is similar, but unrelated, to the issue at hand.


2. Ideation

To avoid only coming up with the most obvious ideas, it is necessary to examine the problem from as many perspectives as possible and then as many alternative ideas as possible need to be generated. Using the information gathered during the immersion stage, it is useful to experiment by combining seemingly unconnected ideas. Tools that are useful at this stage are Brainstorming, SCAMPER and DEsign Thinking to name just three.
In advertising agencies, ideation is normally the responsibility of the creative teams, supported by the account planner and creative director. Once ideas have been developed, they are presented internally and evaluated before being presented to the client.


3. Brain Fog

There comes a time in every creative person’s work when you simply cannot think of new ideas. At this stage, the creative person can become frustrated and willing to give up. When this happens, the best approach is to step away from the problem and do something else so the brain does not get stuck on the problem.


4. Incubation

Incubation often leads to the ‘aha’ moment – that moment when sudden inspiration occurs unexpectedly. The reason why these ideas  often occur at unexpected times is due to incubation. When the problem is set aside for a while, the subconscious mind ‘incubates’ the problem to find unexpected, creative solutions.


5. Illumination

This can be described as the ‘aha’ moment, explained in ‘incubation’. This often happens when the brain is concentrating on something else, or is completely relaxed. Many creative people say that their best ideas occur  when they are in the shower, or driving. This is because the brain has been working subconsciously, trying to make connections between thoughts that might result in a creative idea.


6. Evaluation

Finally, any idea needs to work. In terms of advertising, an idea must be based on strategy. It needs to appeal to the target audience and it must be unexpected to gain attention. It is useful to leave a creative idea for a day or two before evaluating it as many creative people admit that often their creative ideas just do not work and sometimes the idea they thought was wonderful does not seem so great a day or two later.


Final Thoughts

The desire to create is one of the deepest yearnings of the human soul. Advertising agencies of the future will increasingly depend on the creativity of their members to survive. Whatever the challenge is and will be, Always strive to get your creative juices working because creativity is a function of leadership. It requires navigating uncharted territory and having the courage to face adversity to bring your vision into fruition.
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