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Advertising Creative Process: Ideas First

SVA advertising, school of visual arts

The great thing about advertising is you can break the rules--as long as you solve the problem.
However, there is a process that will strengthen your work and make sure the end result is based on a solid advertising concept freshly communicated. Start by developing your concepts in 4 stages.

This is not just for class work but  done in the professional world as well. These stages apply to any media.

4 Stages:



 1. Ideas 

 2. Visuals / Words 

 3. Layout / Design 

 4. Execution 

1. Ideas

This is the thinking and heavy lifting part. Once you've read, understood and agree with 'the brief,' spend most of your time here.

Do not look for pictures. Do not look for pictures. Do not look for pictures. If you start by looking for pictures then your work and idea become whatever the picture is -- and then you haven't used your smarts, your persuasive powers, your visual thinking, your individuality, or your creativity. 


Use your brain. Don't look for ideas, think of ideas. Ideas that will persuade someone to try or want your product. Base your ideas on the objective of the brief and the benefits of the product, why it is unique, and use the insights into what is meaningful about the product to the target.

Persuasion is key for this stage. Use some of the insights from discussions in class. Writing/words may play an important part here but don't be hindered by the exact words or language at this point.

Come up with several different ideas. Do not settle for the first one--even if you think it is great.

2. Visuals/Words

Spend most of your time here too. Art Directors (and writers) will focus on what visual or images can best express the idea? Come up with several ways to visualize it. Do not settle for the first image that comes to mind. Which visual is the most arresting and memorable? How can you make it even more unique? How can you modify it to convey a clearer message? If your visual has been seen a million times before--then trash it and think some more. Or put a totally new spin on it.

Writers will start writing developing words that best express the idea. Now you can put more thought into the verbal: headlines and words. Just like the visual stage, come up with several different ways to verbally express your idea. 

Together the visual and verbal will become your executional idea.

3. Layout / Design

On paper, drawings, sketches, roughs-- layout the idea on a page, what are the visuals, words, and where are they placed, etc. This gets done no matter what the media channel--print, digital, social media, outdoor, ambient etc. Design this page. Don't just place images and words in the space, design it. Art Direct the viewer through your idea.

We'll discuss the difference between roughs on paper and doing them digitally.

[3b. (Video) Rough Boards/Storytelling]

Map out the idea and story in your head. Where does it start and end? What relevant message is seeded in your idea/story. Keep the focus on your selling point and don't over-dramatize areas that aren't important. Analyze it and see if the key message you want someone to remember is clear. Visualize how you will tell it in an interesting, fresh, and memorable way.

4. Executions

This part refers to getting it done for your portfolio. We'll guide you through the last 3 classes to make it happen.

Visual: Using photos, illustrations, typography, Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, cameras, stock art, etc. This is your final interpretation and execution of the idea and/or layout to make it look as finished as possible for a portfolio piece. Use all your art director skills to strengthen and enhance your image and/or page/idea, including color, tonality, retouching of art, cropping the image, using the correct type for the correct voice of your campaign, etc.

If using a stock photo, and you haven't looked through 2,000 options to find one great shot you are basically giving up.

If you love your idea you need to be excited about the image. This is the fun part and there is no excuse for a bad image.  If you are not excited by your visual, go back to stage 1 and come up with another idea that will inspire better visuals.

For each final creative decision, you should have explored many options until you select your final image. Then tweak the image, layout, and design to perfection!

Verbal: Now's the time to wordsmith. Is there a better way to say it? What is the tone of your words? Can it be written more succinct and more persuasive? Can it be simpler? Can it be said better? Keep pushing till you love it.


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