BIG IDEAS . . . and how to hatch them by Jane Maas

We asked our special friend and legendary ad woman Jane Maas from New York for some inspiration about finding inspiration!

This never stop dynamo didn’t disappoint .. 

Three tried-and-true thought starters

Jane Maas, Mad WomenIt happens to everyone. You need a BIG IDEA, but your mind is a blank. So where do ideas come from? And how can you help make them happen?

Novelist Joyce Carol Oates says she gets inspiration for her books while she runs for miles. Legendary ad man and my boss of many moons ago David Ogilvy wrote: “First, I immerse myself in the research. Then I immerse myself in a bottle of wine.” As an advertising copywriter, I have depended on three ways to generate ideas. They always seem to work for me; I hope they’ll do the same for you.

1. Take a Boring or Bad Idea and Turn it Upside Down

What could be more boring than offering a coupon for a fast-food item? The chains have been doing it for years. “Here’s a coupon for a free appetizer when you buy a main course.” YAWN.

Burger King took a boring idea and turned it upside down when they offered a coupon on Facebook that was good for a free Whopper. But to get it, you had to unfriend ten Facebook friends and tell them they were worth only one-tenth of a Whopper to you. So people raced to unfriend ten friends before their friends could unfriend them.

Over 20,000 Whopper coupons were sent out in week – – which means that 200,000 Facebook friends were defriended. Lots of buzz, lots of media coverage. Facebook, concerned about its own reputation, ordered the campaign to be disabled. Of course, that fanned the fire, and the whole idea went viral.

2. Search the world and steal the best

McDonald’s developed the idea for their Happy Meal by observing the first principle of toy marketing – – make the product fun.

Maxwell House studied the beer business and noted the high success of new, imported brands; then they developed Maxwell House French Roast.

Step outside your own area and see what is happening in other categories. If you are marketing a financial product, for instance, look at what’s happening in cosmetics and fashion, automotive and packaged goods. This practice is also helpful for you, personally. If you spend most of your free time going to the opera, spend an afternoon at a soccer game. And vice versa.

3. Have the Guts to Take on a Negative

American Express Travel found out years ago that they gained amazing extra credibility by warning tourists that a certain museum tour actually required walking more than four miles.

Drano drainpipe opener saw their sales shoot up suddenly when they ran an ad saying the product didn’t work very well on bathtub drains clogged with soap, but was unbeatable on grease clogs in kitchen drains.

Domino’s Pizza made a gutsy move by running advertising admitting that their pizzas tasted terrible! They promised they were going to change to a whole new recipe. And then they conducted nationwide taste tests versus competitive pizza chains, and won hands down.

This campaign helped Domino’s achieve an overall same-store-sales gain of 117 percent – – the highest ever in the fast-food industry.

Next time you’re stuck for a BIG IDEA, try one of these. And happy hatching.

Mad Women - Jane MaasLegendary ad woman Jane Maas was a copywriter at New York’s Ogilvy & Mather and Wells Rich Greene.

She is best known for heading the “I Love New York” campaign.

Ms Maas is also the author of Mad Women, the tell-all account of what it was like to be a woman in advertising in the sexy, sexist Era of television’s Mad Men.

Mad Women is a really terrific read and not just for the gals out there – check it out.

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