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Creativity in Advertising
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Creativity in Advertising*

[Editor's Note: This article is a part of ADText.]

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Fig. 1.

An Elegantly Simple and Highly Effective Ad from the 1960s1

Advertising agencies typically have creative departments where print ads, TV commercials, and other marketing communications are produced. These departments are staffed by writers who craft the words in advertisements, graphic artists who plan and construct visual layouts, and other specialists who help in the transformation of strategy into actual advertisements. The creatives (as they tend to be called by insiders) are the artists hired by advertising agencies to use their creative and expressive talents in the service of producing advertisements.2 inline graphic inline graphic

1. What is Creativity?

Creativity tends to be one of those you-know-it-when-you-see-it things that eludes a specific definition. Many people who others have considered highly creative have attempted to explain the creative process. Here are some of their ideas: inline graphic inline graphic

C. G. Jung, Psychoanalyst

The creative aspect of life which finds its clearest expression in art baffles all attempts at rational formulation. Any reaction to stimulus may be causally explained; but the creative act, which is the absolute antithesis of mere reaction, will forever elude the human understanding.3 inline graphic inline graphic

Nina DiSesa, Chairman, McCann Erickson New York

I tell my creative people to use their talent and judgment to solve the problem, because if the advertising isn’t uncommon and imaginative, no one will like it. Only your mother. And even she will get bored in time.4 The reason people often say they think of things in the shower is that it’s the only time we allow our brains to relax and open up. We’re so intense. We’re so driven. We also drink a lot of water. Because when you drink a lot of water, you go to the bathroom, and when you come back, you say to your partner, “Hey, I just got an idea.”5 inline graphic inline graphic

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Musician

When I am, as it were, completely myself, entirely alone, and of good cheer—say, travelling in a carriage, or walking after a good meal, or during the night when I cannot sleep; it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly. Whence and how they come, I know not; nor can I force them.6 inline graphic inline graphic

Bill Bernbach, Former Chairman & CEO, Doyle Dane Bernbach (now DDB)

Merely to let your imagination run riot, to dream unrelated dreams, to indulge in graphic acrobatics and verbal gymnastics is not being creative. The creative person has harnessed his imagination. He has disciplined it so that every thought, every idea, every word he puts down, every line he draws, every light and shadow in every photograph he takes make more vivid, more believable, more persuasive the original theme or product advantage he has decided he must convey.7 inline graphic inline graphic

Charles Mingus, Musician

Making the simple complicated is commonplace; making the complicated simple, awesomely simple, that’s creativity. inline graphic inline graphic

Robert Weisberg, Psychologist, Temple University

Early scholars, among them Plato and Aristotle, speculated on how creative ideas came about. It was proposed originally by the Greeks that creative ideas were gifts from the gods. Specifically, the Muses—nine daughters of Zeus, each of whom was in charge of a separate domain—played a central role in producing novel ideas. This meant that not only did the ideas originate outside the normal thinking process, they actually originated outside the person. The person served as the messenger or conduit through which the ideas were presented from the gods to the rest of us.8 inline graphic inline graphic

These ideas highlight some critical features of the creative process. First, it is extraordinarily hard to define precisely how creativity works. Second, creativity is an art that is not subject to specific rules. Third, creativity cannot simply be called into existence. Fourth, creativity often means proposing elegantly simple expressions of complex issues. Fifth, truly creative people express ideas that are not just personal opinions but also expressions of essential truths. inline graphic inline graphic

2. Creativity in Advertising Today

Familiarize yourself with the meaning of terms used in the business of advertising by visiting this or this...