One of the most memorable training programs I attended when working at Ogilvy for more than three decades was a session led by our former CEO Miles Young. The course focused on “how to generate ideas”, specifically related to improving our creative product. Miles provided us with a book, “A Technique for Producing Ideas” by James Webb Young and insisted we read it before the course. James Webb Young was an iconic advertising man who became the first Chairman of the Advertising Council.
What Is An Idea?
Miles started the session by asking everyone a simple question: “what is an “idea”? This led to his sharing an explanation which was the premise of the book. According to James Webb Young, “an idea is nothing more nor less than a new combination of old elements.”
From that training I began to look more critically at the power of different ideas. If you use this definition, many of the inventions we are witnessing day-to-day make total sense. Think of the mobile phone and its role in payments, managing your health data and more, and you get the picture.
If you extend this to movies, television shows and other forms of entertainment, the definition still applies. In evaluating some of the best creative work I have witnessed in my time at Ogilvy, the description holds true. The more surprising the combination of two familiar elements, the more powerful the idea.
Powerful Ideas Amplified By Outstanding Creative
Decades ago the Ogilvy creative genius, Piyush Pandey, shared some ads his team in India developed for the Cancer Patients Aid Association. We all knew of the imagery around the Marlboro Man and his horse. But, connect that with the perils of second-hand smoke and the creative team developed this print ad below.
This campaign included a television commercial I thought was equally brilliant. Combine smoking and young people with life expectancy, and this satire truly drove the message home. Please be advised, you may need to wait for this to load a moment.
I used to love the commercials our office in Thailand would create for Thai Life insurance. These two are my very favorites and combine the idea of protecting what is good in life with insurance in a very emotional way.
This campaign, created for Philips by Ogilvy in London, was one of my favorites. It combined the challenges of breathing for people suffering from COPD (Chronic Obstructive Respiratory Disease) and created a choir led by a famous conductor, supported by Philips SimplyGo Mini portable oxygen concentrator. Check this out.
Finally, my very favorite public relations campaign was created by the Ogilvy team in France. Combine the challenges of access to water in Africa and put the heroes of that plight in the Paris Marathon and you get this response for the cause “Water For Africa.” Enjoy my friends.
As we enter summer I just thought I would share some inspiration about ideas and creativity from my world over the past 30 years. Wishing you the very best.