This morning I met with a client and after I presented and he approved everything, he asked me the same question my students always do: "How, exactly, do you come up with these?"
I told them I usually go to a neutral corner; a busy cafe. Then I pull out a yellow pad and go to work. Nothing magic, nothing fancy, no trances, no self-hypnosis, no Karen Horney self-therapy. Just work.
"Your mind works in a different way than mine does," said the client, shaking his head. I think that was a compliment.
In any case, I thought it might be useful to my students to be a little more specific about what I like to call work. Here's my 10-step program for creating advertising:
1. Go to a busy cafe.
2. Pull out a yellow pad and a pen.
3. Don't write anything. Think about the problem to be solved, in very general terms. Include the audience, the benefit, the reason-why, the client, the product differences, the company and the target market. Keep doing that.
4. Write down everything that comes to mind. Nothing's too big, too trivial, too silly, too preposterous, too anything. Thoughts, ideas, lines, drawings, art, snatches of conversations, what your mom would say, what Woody Allen would say to your mom.
5. Go to yoga or a book-signing or a movie, and get a good night's sleep. (Watching Kim Kardashian and texting are not part of this process.)
6. After coffee the next morning, find your yellow pad. Cross off anything too stupid for an ad (that eliminates very little).
7. Amplify the rest. Try headlines, story ideas for the Web and TV, bumper stickers and contest ideas. Then put the yellow pad away till tomorrow.
8. The next morning around 10, try to find your yellow pad. Then turn your thoughts into finished ideas. Clean up your act, in other words. If you're having trouble with the headlines, write the copy first, to get your mind in gear. Then write the headlines.
9. Edit and polish one more time. Jot down newborn thoughts.
10. Now you're done, but don't throw anything away. You never know.
Maybe your mind does work differently from mine, but this is what works for me. Students have told me that if they don't cut corners or settle for less than 15 ideas, my "system" works for them.
Please try it yourself. With all the bad advertising around these days, we can use all the good stuff we can get.