Write Better Advertising Ideas With These 21 Creative Thought Starters

You’re due to present your ideas for the big campaign in a couple of hours. You’ve hit a wall. You have nothing. You’re struggling.

Within the last 15 years I’ve found myself in the above same situation. To counter this I have a list of thought starters that I often use to kick my brain into gear.

Below is the list of these 21 thought starters. They are topics and techniques that can be applied to nearly any creative brief.

Let’s begin.

1. Topical

A great way to get some traction with your audience is to write your creative around a current topic, event or seasonal item coming up or of the moment. It could be a popular news item, a cultural event or reference, Valentines Day, Halloween or even a sporting event. It’s a great way to make your creative relevant and current, and also opens the door to doing some potentially risky work for a brand that you wouldn’t normally get away with other time of the year.

2. Sex

The age old sex sells method has been around for a long time, the key is to make it not so blatantly obvious and crass. Axe is a fantastic example of the old sex sells method, they do it an amusing way most of the time, rather than just showing a sexy guy or girl holding the product they write a whole back story and really dramatise man’s mission to attract the opposite sex with the use of the Axe product.

3. Get Weird

More and more creative’s are throwing out the old, clever ‘boom tish’ style of advertising for stuff that just doesn’t make any sense at all. Confectionary is a rich territory for just doing something that is fun and not necessarily communicating a benefit or a proposition — a lot of people will recall your ad simply because it was so weird, in turn it will move product. It is a hard sell but with the public wanting to be entertained more and more by marketing it is a way of doing something that will be enjoyed.

4. Personify

Showing a human side to a product or problem can quickly create a connection with your audience, it gives you the opportunity to inject a real personality and tone into the product immediately without too much work needing to be done. Sometimes the slightest tweak can really create something quite fun and memorable for your brand or product. It could be dressing the product up in human clothing, making the product move in a human way or simply the positioning of it in a human environment. It’s not for every product, and mostly comes off as comical but it can yield some great creative.

5. Reality Check

Using extreme, interesting or unknown facts about your product or service can be a great way to win over consumers’ confidence in your brand. The trick is to express these real facts in a striking way that engages the audience more than just writing it in a simple copy line. It can also be an educational process for the consumer, adding to the depth of the creative with a useful piece of information they may use later in every day conversation.

6. The Mash Up

Fresh creative can be achieved when two worlds meet in the same place that you wouldn’t normally see together. An example would be the internet world mashed up with the real world, the past brought together with the present or even the animal world brought together with the human world. Your message can be delivered in a way that people do not expect, seeing things out of place but clearly making a point is a fantastic way to deliver the same message in a new way.

7. The Character

The creation of a character to champion your campaign can be a very lucrative and a long running idea. The Old Spice guy is a classic example of a very strong character based campaign. The character embodying the alpha male that every man wants to be and every woman wants to have, these properties being delivered by the character in a very dramatic, amusing way.

8. Twist It

Distorting reality can be an engaging exercise, twisting something to look like something else or visualising the proposition in an odd way can really yield some great creative. Most of the time twisting this reality is best expressed with photography or film as apposed to illustration as it can be a lot harder hitting.

9. Celebrity Appeal

Snickers used Mr T as an ambassador for their Get Some Nuts campaign, using a celebrity can bring a lot of weight to the creative especially if they are playing the same character that they have played in a movie or television series, they can quickly and easily communicate an attitude, mood or message that is inline with the tone or personality of the brand that you are advertising.

10. Emotional Appeal

Tugging at people’s heartstrings can be a very powerful way of creating recall and great, memorable creative. The emotional appeal can be achieved through a number of techniques whether it be music, slow motion evocative imagery or a combination of all of the above. The emotion can also be called upon via people’s tendency to empathise with other people’s misfortune, animal rights, children or even sporting moments. The emotional appeal doesn’t have to be negative; it can be very positive playing on people’s childhood or even their own personal experiences.

11. Target a Demographic

Creatives target particular audiences all the time, it’s always in the brief. Particular audiences provide a richer territory then others, an 18 year old male is much easier to crack out ads for then say an 80 female. Insights into particular demographics can provide rich territories for your creative. Most of the time it can be around a particular common attitude amongst the target audience, a particular problem the demographic commonly has or even physical attributes of the group.

12. Problem / Solution

Presenting the problem up front is always a good way to crack creative especially with products. The problems can be obvious everyday problems or even obscure problems that only your target audience may encounter. The key is to express these problems in the most engaging, humorous or direct way. The solution can be simply represented by a pack shot of the product or just the logo. A lot of the time people will see and know that problem and can immediately relate to it, thus making the connection with your brand.

13. Exaggeration

Exaggerating the benefit or a quality of the product or service can be a rich territory for some fantastic creative. It’s really about stretching the truth to the point of the ridiculous but still maintaining a quality or message that people can relate to. It’s becoming increasingly difficult to crack great exaggeration style ads because it is a method creative’s have been using for years but it still can be done well and in an original way, whether it’s time, volume or emotional exaggeration it can still be a sweet spot for some great work.

14. Scale

Scale is always an interesting, fun way to communicate the proposition of your brief. Seeing things way smaller or way larger than you would normally see them in reality is always a great, clear way of saying something. Often just seeing something blown up so large is engaging enough in itself to open up a way of you pushing your message out to the consumer, and as with some of the other techniques it’s an international piece of communication that can be understood in any language.

15. Make Art Not Ads

Positioning your product or service within the artistic space is often a route that a lot of creative’s employ to bring attention to the brand. Using artists to bring creative expression to a brand is often viewed as a shortcut to getting in bed with the in crowd. Alcohol brands do it all the time; Tiger Beer and Absolute vodka are two examples of this. They often provide the canvas for artists to do their thing but there is always an obvious link to the product, BMW is another classic example of this with their series of cars that they commissioned artists to paint a number of years ago.

16. The Demonstration

Visualise how the product or service can help your audience, directly show or tell the target audience ‘hey our product does this!’ It may seem obvious, but it really depends on how original and interesting the demonstration of the benefit is.

17. Visual Stories

Visual stories can be a great way to express a proposition, and can often provide a cheap but interesting way of executing your idea. Through a visual story you can demonstrate a benefit of the product or service or clearly define it without the use of words. A visual story will often engage people more as it looks interesting from the outset, they don’t necessarily look like a traditional ad and can be viewed or interpreted as a puzzle or game to be solved by the consumer, thus providing a more memorable engaging experience.

18. Symbolism & Metaphor

Showing the benefit of the product or service in a metaphoric or symbolic way can really create great, clear communication that can be understood in any language in any market throughout the world. A lot of great examples show the product forming or building into a symbol representing a truth or quality of the product, or it could shot from a particular angle, multiplied or even decomposed and split into parts. It is mostly of course a visual exercise.

19. The Peoples Brand

The use of real people to convey your message is always a good angle. Often the creative can write itself if you speak with real people and they express to you how they feel about the product or service you’re selling.

Employing these ambassadors can often create characters that are more believable and resonate better with your target audience also.

20. Use The Medium

Using the medium to bring the proposition to life can be one of the most original and rewarding ways to execute a creative idea. Exploring and sourcing these new mediums to base your idea on or within can be great, as they do the heavy lifting in bringing the idea to life communication.

21. Attack The Competition

Take a shot at the competition. Find your competitor and start some controversy with a fact or just do something lighthearted and fun. Loads of great campaigns have come from this type of thinking.