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Author: Jerry Canavit

Having worked in the creative end of this business for a good while, I have often been asked  ‘How do you come up with advertising ideas?’ Do ideas just happen

So why do some seem to be so prolific at generating ideas while others are seemingly so challenged?  Does it have something to do with genes? Intelligence?

Or, a magic formula?

Well, first let me say that I believe that most everyone has the potential to be creative.

I also believe that those who find success at being creative have identified and practice a problem-solving approach to doing so. They may not understand how the process actually works, but they’ve come to understand that there is a creative process involved.

I’m not even going to attempt to try and analyze this topic in a broad sense, but rather to limit it to how a very definite process is in play when producing messages in marketing communications mediums. I believe there is no magic formula for producing ideas, however, I do believe there is a process that can serve as a guide to how ideas can be generated.

Here are my thoughts:

In marketing communications you can produce ideas in basically two ways. You can ‘borrow’ an existing idea or approach, adapt it to your needs (with slight modification, of course), and Presto, you have your own idea (and we all know there is a lot of that going on out there). Or, you can try to create something that is totally original and unique to the product or service you are promoting.

Now, we all strive to do the latter, however, the truth is that it is very difficult to do this every time. Do you remember the last time you came up with  a totally original idea?

It does happen, but not very often.

More often than not, an advertising idea is a combination of existing ideas that we’ve  seen or heard before, that can be used in a different and unexpected way – the familiar cliché seen differently, if you will. This ability to see and make new combinations is heightened by an ability to see how things relate – and to combine them to create effective and memorable marketing communications messages.

I do believe that the generation of these ideas is the result of a deliberate problem-solving process that leads to this end. I therefore offer two statements which I believe are at the source of idea generation. They are:

  1. An idea is usually a new combination of existing ideas.
  2. The ability to create new combinations is heightened by the ability to see relationships between existing ideas.

…therefore, creativity in advertising communications involves using combinations of known elements and an ability to see relationships that allow these elements to be considered in different ways. With that said, I will continue with a discussion about a technique for producing ideas.

The Five Steps in the Process of Producing Ideas:

Step One: Gather Raw Material.

The gathering process falls into two categories: Specific and General.

Specific: In marketing communications, Specific materials are those relating to the product or service and the people to whom you want to sell this product or service. We need knowledge about the product and the consumer on an intimate level. We dig for FACTS. We do RESEARCH. The process here  is called PREPARATION.

General: Equally as important is General information. This information involves a continuous process of gathering general materials and life experiences that are relative to the problem being solved.

A good analogy here is the kaleidoscope. The kaleidoscope is an instrument that designers can use to look for new patterns. Every turn of this instrument shifts bits of glass into new patterns (or relationships). The more pieces, the more possibilities for new combinations. Comparatively, the more elements stored in your mind, the more chances are increased for the production of new ideas.

To reiterate, Specific information is information relative to the current problem-solving challenge, and General information is the total content of your kaleidoscopic mind reserve – and is a life-long job.  Both contain the seeds for planting – taking us to . . .

Step Two: Into the Mental Maelstrom.

The second step is hard to describe. It goes on entirely in your head. Like chewing food – mashing information and facts together.  Looking for relationships; for a synthesis of where everything will come together like a jigsaw puzzle.

In this part of the process, two things will happen: First, you’ll have partial ideas – some crazy and incomplete. You should write them all down. They may forecast the real idea that is yet to emerge. Writing everything down helps the process.

Second, after a period of time you may tire of trying to fit this puzzle together (not all solutions come quickly). Everything seems jumbled. There seems to be no clear insight anywhere. At this point, you are ready for the next step.

Step Three: Incubation.

The third part of the process can be called the incubation stage. This is where you make absolutely no more conscious effort in looking for a solution. You drop the subject completely and put the whole thing out of your mind. Now I have no idea why this works, but I have found that it does. Apparently, when you turn problems over to your unconscious mind and let it work on its own – it can solve problems. Sometimes it comes in a revelation after a nights sleep – or while in the shower – or during a walk. I have also found that by dropping the problem-solving effort completely and turning to things that stimulate me imaginatively and emotionally – like reading a book, listening to music, or even going to a movie ­– things can happen. Not all solutions come this way, however,  my point here is that it often works this way.

A good example of this technique is in old Sherlock Holmes movies when the famous detective would stop abruptly in the middle of a tough case and begin playing his violin or even drag a baffled Dr.Watson off to a concert. This was, of course, very irritating to the literal-minded Dr. Watson who never seemed to grasp why Holmes would consistently resort to this behavior when they were right in the middle of solving a case. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle understood – for he was a creator and understood the creative process and the power of the unconscious mind.

Now, if you’ve done your homework in the first three steps, you will almost certainly experience the fourth.

Step Four: Eureka!

Out of nowhere the idea can appear. It may come sometime when you least expect it.

For me it’s happened in the middle of the night, when I’m half awake in the morning – or, more often when I’m showering or shaving. For you it might be something different. My point is that ideas can sometimes come seemingly out of nowhere after you’ve stopped all of the conscious straining and have passed through a period of rest and relaxation from the search. And when the idea actually materializes, it can be so all-consuming that it becomes difficult to concentrate on much else. The application of the idea can become so involving that other competing activities can pale into a paralysis. This can provide very difficult challenges if you happen to be in the middle of a meeting or if you are working on an unrelated project with a hot deadline.  Sometimes when the ideas start rolling out quickly, like giving birth, it requires immediate attention.

This step is also particularly difficult in that it involves a constant assessment of the

value of the idea and to see exactly where it can be taken.  This can be a period of frustration for creative people. Some don’t recognize or even care about the process that generated the idea. The truth is that many supervisors expect a well thought out idea delivered according to schedule. The problem here is that the process does not naturally work that way. And, for every good idea, there are always a few clinkers that just don’t work out and you just can’t know beforehand which will work and which will not.

This is a time of constant moulding.

You question everything.

Will it work better this way? Or that?

Is the communication clear?

Is the tone right?

Is it just clever without  making the point effectively?

Is this really as good as I think it is?

Your gut tells you it is!

Right?

Right!

So now you’ve come up with this great idea.

What next?

Step Five: Hello Cruel World.

How will the world react to your newborne creation?

Well, have courage.

You should share your idea with your peers.

Don’t shelter it.

When you do, a surprising thing can happen.

A good idea has self-expanding qualities.

It can stimulate those who see it and make them want to add to it.

Possibilities you had not considered may be brought out.

Congratulations!

Another great idea created.

Maybe you were lucky and hit a home run. Maybe not.

Whether your idea was a good one is not the point here.

What I’ve attempted to do is describe the steps involved in allowing you to produce the idea. The quality of the idea is still in your court.

If your idea is an award winner (great), a bottom-line winner (wonderful),

or both (even better), it’s just the icing on the cake – as we are only concerned about the process here.

Those are my thoughts.

Now, do I finish the three projects that have been laying here on my desk all afternoon?

Or, do I take the afternoon off for some step three incubation time and take in a movie?

Article Source: http://www.articlesbase.com/branding-articles/the-creative-process-5829828.html

About the Author

While creativity is Jerry’s stock in trade, he distinguishes himself by basing solutions on solid marketing objectives. That’s why his work not only receives national attention for its creative content, it also produces increased market share for clients.

A graduate of the University of Texas College of Fine Arts, Jerry is highly trained in the technical aspects of his craft. During the past three decades, he has enhanced his skills with extensive practical experience in the communications arts. He is comfortable creating and developing ideas on the computer, producing television commercials on location, or presenting an advertising campaign in a corporate boardroom.

Jerry has instructed classes in Art Direction, The Business of Advertising and Typography at San Antonio College and has served as AAF judge for advertising awards competition in Albuquerque, NM and Baton Rouge, LA.

Jerry’s rich experience allows him to apply his craft skillfully to a wide range of client needs. His work is seen in a variety of commercial advertising applications and has received a bevy of regional and national awards. With Jerry Canavit heading the  creative team, BK&A Advertising clients enjoy the benefits of unique and award-winning solutions tailored to produce bottom line success.

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