Truly great ideas seemingly come out of nowhere. Flashes of inspiration that suddenly fight their way into your cerebral cortex and out of your mouth or on to the page.
Only it doesn’t really work like that. Every idea you have, no matter how left-field or out-of-character it may be, is a product of your environment, your learning and your past. Nothing is created in a vacuum, so you will wear your influences, whether that is on your sleeve or deep in your heart.
In many cases, this is great. You can create the new out of the old. After all, punk rock in the UK was part Situationism, part glam, part pub rock, part Angry Brigade and part leftover stock at the clothing shop that Malcom McLaren’s ran with Vivienne Westwood.
But you also risk simply imitating what has gone before. Playing it safe. Playing the percentages.
Legendary ad man Dave Trott has spoken about this in the past and how when ads that look like X are selling, you certainly notice when someone produces on that looks like an O. Trott has done this himself, notably with the Lipsmackin’ Pepsi Cola campaign. Here is something cooler than Coke, that you can attempt to recreate in the playground. See also MeowMix (which I don’t think was Trott’s) or those arty Guinness ads that became an anchor around the neck of admen for years. An original that became something that people tried to imitate.
Being different is as important as being right or being good. Maybe even more so. Your clients may want a ‘me-too’ campaign or copy, but imagine how much more inspiring something original will be. Both for you and the client. You have to innovate.
That brings me to the picture above, which was taken in my neighbourhood. The council were scrubbing the massage parlour stickers off the lampposts and applying anti-stick paint.
So one masseuse (or their flyer/sticker kid) decided to innovate. Sticking their ad to the bollards put up to ensure the street and lamppost clean went smoothly. Sure, it was temporary. But it certainly showed some original, daring thinking.