How Did You Come Up With That Ad?

How Did You Come Up With That Ad?

Darren Easton

Darren Easton

As the Vice President and Creative Director of The Cyphers Agency, Darren Easton believes in creating strategically sound campaign work.

creativityCreativity is ideas. We’ve been talking a lot about how creativity in our agency is much more than the team in charge of actual ad executions. But honestly, we still know what fascinates folks most and has them ask: “how’d you come up with that ad?” The creative process that actually occurs in the Creative Department is fascinating but all too often it’s melodramatically portrayed in the media and Hollywood.

The most important thing to me in the early stages of idea generation is reserving judgment for later. Make an initial brainstorming session open for uninhibited creativity without premature criticism. Nothing will shut down a good brainstorming session quicker than me killing an idea. If there’s an idea killer in the room, the team will withdraw or even worse, turn ugly and arguments ensue. ‘Don’t want to make a fool of myself so I’ll just keep

After a free and open brain dump, it is time to evaluate ideas. It’s my job to then bring to light the details of the creative brief. To explain why some misguided ideas are based on anything but the strategy, tone or target audience within the brief. Sure, there is some know-how that comes into play after doing this for 20+ years, but an educated criticism beats out the ‘in my experience’ justification any day. Not all ideas at this point are completely discarded but simply massaged to see if they can adhere to the criteria of the brief. If they cannot, the trash can is the best place for them. ‘Let it go,’ I say.

Initial ideas are often just in your head. The next step is to see if it can quickly resonate visually. Grab a sketch book and doodle what that idea would look like. If you struggle, it’s an idea that probably won’t work. Visuals are an essential means of communication; they are what draw a viewer in. Often even brilliant ads don’t succeed when summed up in a pithy headline.

Once you’re comfortable with the overall idea, it’s time to bring it to life. An art director and copywriter team are formed while the Creative Director watches over them by day and night to make sure they don’t stray from the established strategy. With this team, a kind of ping-pong ensues in which words and visuals go back and forth until the ultimate combination is achieved.

The ultimate and most difficult part of this creative process comes now: the final idea. At this stage, every idea could be the one. The path to mediocrity begins by choosing a winner in your mind and treating the others like the unwanted step child. Leaving isolated moments of genius out of the process and giving them half the effort. Only hard work can turn good ideas into great ones. Once all ideas have you entire heart and soul, you can then scrutinize, rework, reject, adjust and finally without a doubt pick your winner. Next step: love it and leave it be. If you are a confident ad person this will be the easiest thing in the world. Sadly, far too many people lose sleep at this stage and stay awake at nights wondering: ‘Am I really creative?’


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