In my 38 years as an advertising/marketing creative, there are many times I’ve “hit the wall” conceptually, and had to find some inspiration to get the ideas flowing again. Here are some methods that have always worked for me:
Tune in to something different
Watch an opera, “art” film or Broadway musical. Take a virtual tour of a modern art museum. Expose yourself to creative ideas you’ve always shied away from. You’ll be amazed how it gets the little gray cells bouncing around.
Nothing strenuous. A nice long stroll usually does the trick. I don’t know why this works. Maybe because it gives your mind a rest and lets your body do the work. I can’t tell you how many big ideas I’ve come up with just walking around my neighborhood.
Get some sleep
This works the same way as exercise. Getting a good eight hours of sleep lets your subconscious mind wander. This sometimes leads to solutions you were too uptight to consider before.
Go back to the classics
In my opinion, the best advertising ever created was by the 1960’s ad agency Doyle Dane Bernbach (DDB). They did the breakthrough Volkswagen, Avis and Alka-Seltzer campaigns. Most 2020 advertising creative directors agree: Nobody has ever done it better than DDB. When I need major inspiration, I look at DDB ads and just let them wash over me. By the way, all this classic work has been gathered in a book, “When Advertising Tried Harder” by Larry Dobrow. If you can find it, it’s a great addition to your library.
Refocus on the product benefit
Bill Bernbach, the creative director of the agency I mentioned above, once said, “You’ll always find your solution in the product.” He was right. Whenever I get stumped, it’s usually because I’ve taken my eye off of what my client’s product can do for the consumer. Once I refocus on that, it brings clarity, direction and new ideas.