3 Ways to a Good Idea

In any form of advertising, including DRTV, a great piece of work always begins with a great idea. That’s why at Eicoff the beginning phase of a project is so important. It’s at this time that the foundation of our TV commercial and its core message will be built.

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This early stage is also really fun to watch. Creative teams fight the fight to find those really big ideas. Sometimes their first thought rules the day. Sometimes they struggle mightily. And other times, the ideas just won’t stop coming.

That’s why it’s not only interesting, but vital in our occupational field to think, “How can we put ourselves in the best place to find ideas?” So in today’s blog, I’ll review 3 different thoughts that can help you, me and anyone else generate good ideas.

1. GIVE YOUR MIND A REST. 

Yes, that’s right. It’s common for people to have big ideas pop into their heads while doing brain-dead things, like taking a shower, going for a stroll or laying in bed. And, there’s a scientific reason for this. When your brain relaxes, it can begin to daydream, open up and let all of those wonderful thoughts come together. If your brain is roaming, instead of focusing, it’s actually super active and thus a ripe condition for an “a-ha” moment. If you’re in search of an idea, feel free to take a walk, go for swim, stare at the ceiling, linger in the shower, get a massage or doodle away.

2. PUT YOUR THOUGHTS ON A COLLISION COURSE. 

In his book, Where Good Ideas Come From, Steven Johnson details out in great length how many historically significant innovations were spawned by several ideas coming together. From the first coffee houses of England to modern innovation labs, when people and their ideas mingle, big things can happen. As a creative person, you’re much better off exposing yourself to the world around you, sharing with others and looking for things that may create a spark. That’s why it’s important for us not to work in a vacuum. So go ahead, have lunch with your mad scientist friend, explore a museum, learn a new skill, read a totally different style of writing, flip through a magazine, listen to the Blues or click on today’s funniest Youtube video. It’s okay. You are on a collision course to a good idea.

3. BE AN IDEA HORDER.

Filmmaker Kirby Ferguson has a terrific four-part series called Everything Is A Remix in which he explores how many brilliant creators and artists weren’t as “original” as we all may think. He shows how in Star Wars George Lucas borrowed everything from the opening titles to the severing of a limb from earlier movies. He also demonstrates how legends like Led Zeppelin and Bob Dylan clearly copied and adapted the music of others. In advertising you obviously don’t want to look like another brand, but if you can take an existing idea, visual look or writing style and remix it into something totally fresh, go for it. As Kirby points out, just look at Hollywood where 74 of the 100 best selling films in the last decade are sequels, re-makes and adaptations of books, comics or video games. When writing for a funny character in your TV commercial, think about how your favorite comedian, or your hilarious Uncle Pete, might speak. When looking for a cool visual, look at other cool visuals. Hoard as many ideas as you can. The larger the collection of ideas you have, the better you’ll be able to adapt, transform and create something wonderful.

Whether you make television commercials for a living or not, coming up with big ideas is a valuable skill. And while certain brains are simply better at it, the reality is that the proper environment and your method of working can make a huge difference. And of course, if all else is fails, I suggest pouring yourself 2 pints of Guinness. One to drink. And one to stare into until an idea surfaces.

Tim Burke is a Group Creative Director at A. Eicoff & Co., one of North America's largest DRTV agencies.