Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Tuesday Tip No. 62 - What To Do When No Ideas Are Coming

There are loads of books out there with advice on how to have ideas.

It's normally some old shit like "look out the window and write an ad about the first thing you see." Why there aren't more ads about pigeons, I don't know.

There's also a section on what to do when you're stuck, which will be things like "go for a walk" or "have a bath."

I have no bath in my office. And you can't go for a walk in Soho. It's like Frogger out there.

So I thought it might be interesting to make a list of the Top 10 things I actually do - not things one should do - but what I genuinely do, when I'm stuck.

Here they are.

1. Carry on and hope (N.B. this never works)
2. Coffee
3. Look at brief again
4. Go to toilet
5. Look through bottom drawer
6. YouTube (sorry...)
7. Use different pen
8. Try using different pad (switch from lined to plain or vice versa)
9. Call planner
10. Tell Scowling A.D. I can't think of anything

What do you do?

Previous Tips


PH said...

Sit on the bog.
Works every time.
Lightens the load both physically and metaphorically.
(Is that too much information?)

Lunar BBDO said...

Read old award books.

Not for ideas, but because they contain such a wide range of visual material, you can find a dog, some shoes, a bottle of brandy, an ipod, a tree etc. all within the space of a few pages, so you can have a huge range of visual influences in a short space of time that might set off a lateral connection. After a while, the flicking through becomes mindless, allowing your subconscious to do its thing.

Or go home. The answer will present itself during Dragon's Den.

PH said...

And...go and look at the girls who work on the Clinique counter.

Assign it to another creative saying that "I'm too busy with really important other stuff."

Anonymous said...

i go on scampblog. its a pretty dull blog about advertising but it breaks up the day.

Sell! Sell! said...

Drink coffee
Play Pinball
Talk to anyone I can find about about product I'm working on
Read client's original brief

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Speak to the other creative teams on my floor who i don't generally socialize with, use 'i'm stuck' as a conversation starter to get to know them a bit better.

Anonymous said...

Lunar bbdon't - 'I read awards books over and over and talk to people about awards and think about what's winning awards at the moment and dream about awards and copy other awards and hold my old awards and lick my awards and write on blogs about awards awards awards and talk about awards awards awards awards awards awards awards awards...' You're like a stuck record.

Advertising said...

We usually sit in silence for a bit until one of us says something completely off-topic, like "I saw a right twat on the bus today. He didn't even know what insomnia was." And we go from there.

Lunar BBDO said...

Anon 3.28...In my defence:

Last posts:

D&AD (indeed, that was slightly awards-based, but mainly about the annual and digital offering)
America's influence
Bill Bernbach
The influence of art forms on each other
Putting yourself into your work
Accidental extensions of campaigns
The difference between great ads and great creatives
Jerry Seinfeld Microsoft
Ad directors becoming movie directors
Microsoft again
A cool promo
Advertising being enjoyably subjective
Gnarls Barkley Promo
A catchup from the things I didn't say while away for six weeks.

Anonymous said...

I like to imagine how a cat would handle the brief. This usually ends with me batting it around the room before eventually barfing. Then the magic can begin.

Anonymous said...

I call my mum, or I masturbate.

If I'm really stuck I'll do both at the same time.

Unknown said...

doodle and think, think and doodle.

Bentos said...

I agree with ph, odd how many great ideas come while pinching loaf.

Christian said...


Anonymous said...

Write down all the crap that is clogging my head to do with the brief, what the client wants, what the user/consumer will like or want, profile, identify etc.

basically everything thats in my head, clear it all out, so there is some room for ideas.

once there is space, think about something completely unrelated, whats my favorite ice cream flavor, how long can a dog stand on its hind legs, what would it be like to sit ina bath full of baked beans

and soon, when you least expect it something happens, if not, you find yourself feeling happy and content, both are good out comes in my book

Anonymous said...

Read Paul Arden's "It's Not How Good You Are, It's How Good You Want To Be" and "Whatever You Think, Think The Opposite." They only take half an hour each and are full at different ways of thinking about your problem, without giving you any answers. So when you have an idea, you can still honestly claim it's yours...

]-[appy Thought said...

We used to have a ping-pong table, that was great for re-injecting some energy, sadly that has made way for more desk space. I do get hold of the latest music that's been sent to our film dpt though. New music helps a lot somehow.

I also find sometimes showing work you know is crap (i.e. no idea in it) to an ACD and getting a bollocking can be good for a small bit of panic energy, although that may be good because I am still a junior and can get away with such acts without being fired.

Anonymous said...

I look at www.compfight.com and write and write and write, even if it's utter bollocks.

Also, If I set my alarm, an hour early, I am guaranteed to have vivid dreams. Just before I wake up I can sometime hear my sub-conscious nattering away to itself about how I can possibly solve a brief- so when I wake up: Bingo. Problem's solved.

Most of the time, badly.

andymarkpeel said...

I think guy and sarah seem like us too, we sit there all quiet, search the web.
www.failblog.com gives me a chuckle
then talk about something else.

Alternatively we take what we have done already to the CD/other people and get opinions and improvements

Anonymous said...

Stick at the problem til my head hurts. Do another hour,
then go skateboarding.


Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Take drugs?
They scare me.

So does grown up(men-what an oxymoron :@p); shadows; failure; being alone and old age.

I need to grow up.

Anonymous said...

As does grammar and punctuation. I wasn't taught it at school. It was seen as being elitist and middle class by the knob-head policy makers of the time.

PATRICK LO said...

My experience:
Keep thinking, working on the brief, not leaving your desk even your bladder is hurting. When you can feel nothing anymore, go for a pee, the idea will flow out like magic.

But it can only happen by accident. You can tell yourself "I'll take a pee just for the sake of it, not trying to ask for any inspiration"... then again, the Force above will still know your real intention...

Anonymous said...

do the the most literal answer to a brief possible: usually some cliche visuals with even more cliche headlines.
so I'm on the safe side. and less stressed.

than go over the bottom drawer, doodle, do some sport or just fiorget it for a while.

Anonymous said...

tug one off under the desk watching porn hub!

trust me its amazing.

Anonymous said...

It's got to be drugs and wanking, hasn't it?

Who hasn't had great ideas grinding out a squirt of man paste (or a slick of lady juice), enhanced by a cheeky trip to the K-Hole?

It also helps if you shove a massive dildo up your arse and dust your clitty with coke.

Anonymous said...

Write the name of the brand you are working on, on a pad, then draw a box round it and add little embellishments at each corner. Then keep drawing a box round it until the line is relly thick.
I also find a good walk helps. Especially in summer, especially in Soho. I don't know what happens to girl's breasts in summer but they all seem to swell by three cup sizes.

Anonymous said...

God it's amazing how many of you problem solve with your penises.

I think we should suggest this problem-solving strategy to George Bush. Have a wank not a war?

Provato said...

i read a short story by Chekhov. or a small paragraph by Ursula Le Guin.

Anonymous said...

I write down the phrase
"One pound seventy five and a
half p! Not a pretty sight." In flowery writing. I overheard this phrase being used in a shop in

Ted said...

For those who understand italian:


Anonymous said...

My advice

Consume music. Put on your headphones and relax. it will come to you! i promise.

sal said...

I listen Lou Reed and then i watch Woody Allen's movies as Manhattan and Play it again, Sam or i keep on searching the weirdest videos on you tube. The dog girl is an example.

Anonymous said...

read the brief again.
read all the research, again.
Go home.
Forget about the brief.
Have a smoke.
Start the night before's washing up.
usually get an idea just after finishing the plates before starting on the cutlery.

Anonymous said...

porn. totally frees the mind. watch a clip and i guarantee something hits you.

M.M. McDermott said...

I dick around on ad blogs. Smoke a pipe. And hit the special bottle in the bottom desk drawer.

Ryan Houston-McMillan said...

If you live in the city:

Go get a coffe, or sandwich, whatever, it doesn't matter. Just leave the office. Then just sit back and people watch.
It's incredible. you're ad could involve a bald man with a sweep over having an argument with a homeless Russian about which blanket is warmest.