advertising, creative

A Study In Creative Thinking

Today, I shall take all you wannabe advertising creatives – not that there are too many of you, what with the industry’s pitiful pay scales – through a basic exercise in honing your creative skills. This exercise has been advocated by some of the world’s greatest creative folk, creative directors and advertising professors who couldn’t quite put their theories into practice in the real world.

Every young creative’s first question to his or her senior is, “How can I think better?” Well, my inner voice Marble, who is extremely sarcastic at the best of times, usually answers, “Use your head.” But that is not the solution I refer to.

The exercise we go through is to sort of reverse-engineer a brilliant ad. That is, look at the final creative product and try to figure out what the creative brief must have been. That way, one will (hopefully) understand the thought process that went into the ad, and (even more hopefully) apply it when one is next briefed.

To simplify this for your understanding, I will provide examples. But you will, in all probability, not have seen the ads I’d put down here. Plus, I’m too lazy to search for the YouTube links. So, I will use examples we’re all extremely familiar with – nursery rhymes. (Many thanks to Dan Brown for the symbology lessons.)

Here goes.

Example 1
The Creative
Humpty-Dumpty sat on a wall,
Humpty-Dumpty had a big fall.
All the King’s horses and all the King’s Men
couldn’t put Humpty together again.

Decoding The Message
Humpty-Dumpty, a large, fragile, egg-man, clearly represents human beings. In particular, his fragility leads us to infer that Humpty-Dumpty represents that most fragile of human beings – a human child, probably about 5 years of age. And if a human child sits on a wall (at some height, presumably), it is likely to fall. In case of such a fall, said child is likely to be seriously wounded, with little or no hope of survival.

Therefore, The Brief
Children these days are taking too many risks, especially when it comes to sitting at a great height. We need to educate children aged between 4 and 10 of the inherent dangers of sitting on a high wall without adequate safeguards.


Example 2
The Creative
Jack and Jill went up a hill
to fetch a pail of water.
Jack fell down
and broke his crown
and Jill came tumbling after.

Decoding The Message
Jack and Jill are clearly two reckless, post-pubertal teenagers who believe that nothing bad could ever happen to them. ‘Going up a hill to fetch a pail of water’ is evidently a metaphor for, you know, getting it on. The disastrous consequences of ‘going up the hill’ are clearly a metaphor for teenage pregnancy and all the problems it brings.

Therefore, The Brief
Teen pregnancy is increasing rapidly these days. Lack of viable birth control – not to mention self-control – is resulting in a great number of underage marriages and bastard children. We need to educate teenagers of both sexes about the disastrous consequences of premarital sex.


Example 3
The Creative
Hush a bye baby, on the tree top.
When the wind blows, the cradle will rock.
When the bough breaks, the cradle will fall.
Down will come baby, cradle and all.

Decoding The Message
Why would anyone try to hush a baby? Obviously because the baby is bawling its lungs out. No amount of rocking, singing, playing, feeding or cleaning diapers has helped quiet the fretful child. Leaving the mother, one would imagine, in quite a frustrated state of mind. Hence, the last three lines of the rhyme can be interpreted as a threat from a mother at the very edge of her sanity to her screaming child. Sort of along the lines of, “Beta, so jaa…nahin toh Gabbar aayega.”

Therefore, The Brief
Mothers all over England (the land where most nursery rhymes originated) are frustrated with their screaming, squalling brats. There have been several incidences of mothers killing their babies, themselves, or their husbands due to the resultant loss of sanity. This sets a bad example. So, we need to give mothers a tool to help them quiet their babies, thus removing the source of frustration.


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