Mommy, where do ideas come from?

  • Categories:

    Creative, Inspiration

  • Date:

    May 20, 2022

Mommy, where do ideas come from?

Creative Inspiration

A college professor once told me that when you’re in advertising, everyone you know will, at some point, share their “brilliant” idea for something. You’ll be at a birthday party when Aunt Gladys comes up to you with an ad concept that will blow your mind. Aunt Gladys? Really?

While it may be true that anyone can come up with a fabulous suggestion, no one in our business can afford to be a one-hit wonder. Our business is a lifelong quest for ideas. That said, there’s no secret formula for where ideas come from. As the following examples show, ingenious ideas often flow because we welcome a simple shift in perspective, ask a different question or change a single word.

Change Your Language, Change Your World

It should be obvious that words hold incredible power. One sentence or even one word can dramatically change your perception of the world around you. The right — or wrong — phrase can shift your entire perspective, propelling you to new ideas.

Our team experienced this while working on a particularly difficult campaign. The client, VELUX, is known for their incredible work creating skylights that inspire breathtaking new perspectives in homes and buildings. With our ad campaign, we wanted to drive home the idea of transformation, but nothing seemed to click.

The more we went over it, the more it felt as if we were spinning our wheels and getting nowhere fast. Going back to the drawing board, we focused even more on the eccentricities of the audience we were concepting for. They were interested in entertainment and popular culture. They had a flair for the dramatic.


Drama. What if we stopped thinking about how the skylights “transformed” rooms and shifted our perspective to how they can “dramatically change the room”?

That minor shift drastically altered the trajectory of our campaign, leading us to create fictional characters in a setting called “Drama Heights.” We could tell a dramatic story that would appeal to our audience, creating a love triangle of sorts, and inviting consumers to help shape the story while relating it to the way our product can shape their living space.

A simple restating of the problem forged a new avenue to ideation. In other words, the entire evolution of our campaign hinged on a simple change in language.

Change the Conversation

Breaking through the wall of ideation takes a team of people who are willing to think differently.

While working on a campaign for another Wray Ward client, we talked to designers about how to make awnings sexy again. Generally speaking, awnings had become a dated apparatus, and they just didn’t jive with the more modern designs of the day.

But bringing style back from the dead isn’t a simple task.

That’s when we turned the idea on its head, changing the focus of our conversation. Sure, awnings may go out of style, but do you know what will NEVER go out of style? Shade. As long as there’s a sun, people will seek the comfort of shade to escape its blazing rays.

Shifting the conversation from the reemergence of awnings to finding new, innovative ways to add shade to environments radically changed how we viewed the project.

We created a campaign that explored the future of shade, positioning it as an international design contest to see who could come up with the most ingenious approaches to creating shade while using our client’s products to make it all happen.

One of the most important factors in ideation is this: We always want to be memorable and disruptive, but — more than anything — we also want to remain relevant.

Turn the Picture Sideways

No, I’m not about to drop a metaphorical truth bomb on you. Sometimes you literally need to flip a photo around.

Allow me to explain. Working again with VELUX on a campaign for their superior skylights, we were trying to come up with something new and bold that would tell the brand story in a way no one had ever seen before.

I was staring at a picture of a woman sitting on the floor, looking at a wall with a window in it. Nothing new or groundbreaking, just a normal photo. But then, I turned the photo 90 degrees, and the woman was suddenly looking up from her floor to the window on her ceiling.

That’s all it took. That simple turn of my wrist launched one of my favorite campaign concepts of all time: The Fifth Wall. Instead of looking at the ceiling as something that covers your head, what if we viewed it as a fifth wall — a new, appealing canvas — where you could create new designs and install new, perspective-changing skylights?

The ideas flowed from there, shifting the perspectives of our photography and cinematography, and creating new ideas where there were none before.

Creatives need catalysts to ideate from.

Life Finds a Way

I mentioned earlier that there is no secret formula for good ideas. There’s no vault buried miles underground guarded by men in berets with lasers (although that would be fun). No, the answer is much simpler:


Real moments in life are the best cues for ideas. They are all around us, waiting to be gathered, molded and shaped into something spectacular. They come from the waterfall that is the world around us. You have to be a student of culture and immerse yourself in the world — not to copy or mimic — but to take something and give it a subtle twist to make it new and memorable.

Ultimately, in our industry, valuable ideation is about what will grab your audience’s attention. It’s understanding what is important to them — what is true about the world around them — and building a real, authentic message that captures their imagination while awakening something within them they never knew existed.

Want to see more examples of work that didn’t just inspire but got results? Browse our case studies.

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