Great Advertising Starts with a Really Boring Reality: A Disciplined Approach

The truth about most great advertising ideas is that they came as a result of a consistent and disciplined routine. Your first order of business is to develop a creative brief. This vital document acts as the guide to arriving at your big idea. The brief outlines the challenge you need to solve, and as your brainstorming group comes up with ideas you can run them by the brief to see how they measure up.

NOTE: Everyone who’s at the brainstorming sessions must come prepared to talk about the brief.

Next, you need to assemble a group of people who care about the challenge at hand and who may have already shared some thoughts with you about how new ad ideas will help grow the business.

Where to do it? Try some place like your boardroom and have plenty of fresh water on hand, but avoid treats; they tend to make people sleepy. Great ideas are born of focus.

Set a time for your session and enforce it by insisting that everyone shows up on time. Latecomers can interrupt the groove by making you start over. And set an end time so people get accustomed to the discipline of deadlines.

Another important factor is getting the ideas down on paper, on a white board or even snap a shot of them on a smart phone. Among the most discouraging outcomes of a brainstorming session is overlooking a good idea because no one took the time to document it somehow.

NOTE: Don’t be afraid to debate passionately the ideas that emerge, as long as you’re all discussing the merit of the idea and not attacking each other’s intellect. But remember…

Thumbs Down Example 1There Are Bad Ideas in Brainstorming

A persistent myth about brainstorming is that there are no bad ideas in these crucible-like sessions. Wrong. Most of what you’re going to come up with will suck.

It’s important to be ruthless about seeing an idea for how it will accomplish the objective set out in the brief, but making sure people still feel involved and encouraged is also important.

The Truth Will Set You Free

Listen for and seek out ideas based on the key values and brand truths that define your offer to the marketplace. The true characteristics of your brand must be the inspiration for your messaging and imagery. Look for the truth in the ideas that come up in your session and how well that truth might come alive in the creative approach. It should command your target audiences attention long enough for them to fully grasp the idea or, at the very least, intrigue them to explore the idea further online, in-store or wherever.

Blade LightbulbEureka!

Sooner or later, the combination of a smart routine, perfected through repetition and conditioning, and empowered by professional discipline will yield the kernel of genius you are seeking. It will capture the truth of your offering. It will command attention. It will work!

Just don’t be surprised if it’s a lot of hard work, because it’s supposed to be.


Wayne S. Roberts

The Globe and Mail calls Wayne S. Roberts "an ad industry provocateur." Maybe its because he's never seen the point of playing by the ad game rules that place awards above results, while offering spec work instead of real value to win accounts. Throughout his career, Wayne has maintained a defiantly independent streak characterized by his insistence that agencies must be honest, direct and passionately invested in their clients' success. His pioneering work in espousing the brand community perspective has been a touchstone of his belief that branding is more than just logos, websites and ad campaigns; it is the fundamental way human beings connect with each other to create communities and launch movements that have changed our world.

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