As I explained in my previous post the first step in creating successful communications is to write a good brief.  Why?  Because this tells you what you need to say.

The second stage involves working out how to say it.

You cannot afford to be boring

This immediately begs a question.  Why can’t you just take the message from the brief and use that in your communications?  Because there’s almost certainly a more remarkable way of saying it – one that’s more likely to grab attention, create engagement, stimulate action and stick in the memory.  Stage 2 of the process is where you work on finding it.

It’s hard to explain exactly what happens here, but it is generally referred to as “coming up with an idea”.  David Ogilvy (a great believer in doing the research necessary for a though brief), in his famous book “Ogilvy on advertising”, writes that “You can do your homework from now until doomsday, but you will never win fame and fortune unless you also invent big ideas.  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.”

Can’t you see that I’m a creative guru?

John Hegarty’s book, “Hegarty on advertising” (consciously written as a counterpoint to Ogilvy?) is subtitled “Intelligence into magic”.  And ideas do arrive as if by a kind of magic.  This encourages some people to adopt a “creative persona” – they cultivate a particular personal image, and off-beat behaviour, to suggest that they are closer to the creative muse than the mere muggles around them.

The idea arriving at platform three is the 8.45 from…

The truth, I believe, is more prosaic and practical.  There is a kind of magic – but it doesn’t happen by accident.  Ideas are the result of a particular train of thought.  This can occur unconsciously.  But it you are in the business of generating ideas it pays to be good at getting them to arrive on time – nobody is going to pay you for staring into space indefinitely!

Think inside the box before you venture outside it

When I was at Saatchis I was given a book entitled “A technique for producing ideas” by James Webb Young.  It was written in 1940, in Chicago – not California.  The author came from America’s industrial heartland, not the sunny state that was soon to spawn the hippies – and his advice is extremely practical.  He states that after “a long time pondering…and close observation of the work of idea producing men” he concluded “that the production of ideas is just as definite a process as the production of Fords; that the production of ideas, too, runs on an assembly line.”  He then describes a five step process for assembling ideas (the first of which is to gather all the requisite information into a brief).

I’m not going to give you the five stages – buy the book!  But once you’ve read it you’ll be in no doubt that, if you need to produce good ideas to order, there’s a proven process to help you accomplish it.  It’ll also help you see through a lot of self-styled creative people.  They look the part, but underneath they’re bluffing it – very few are actually taking a systematic approach to their trade.

Once you have your idea you can move on to the third stage.  Go to my next post, “You need to express your idea in the most powerful way possible”.