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Archive for January, 2011

50 ways to get an idea

Most ideas jump into our brains at unexpected times, at unexpected places. (Having dinner at 6′ is an idea, and it’s one that occurs at an expected time and expected place but that’s not the kind of idea I mean. I’m talking big, honkin’ ideas.)

The point is, creative ideas can’t be forced out (or in, for that matter). The reason is pretty simple. When you’re researching something, you have a good sight of what to look for. With creative ideation, you don’t exactly have that. So while research and planning is bestly done with full concentration, ideation is best done subconsciously.

Sometimes (I say sometimes, because there is not a single proven way to get good ideas), the trick is to put your mind in a state where you do think about the problem at hand in the background, but the primary focus is on something else.

So try to explore the issue from many different, unexpected angles. Things you normally wouldn’t do. (would you?)

1. Go to the zoo. (I got this from a creative director called Ali Ali. He said ‘an idea is an idea, even if it’s a trip to the zoo.)
2. Eat cold food.
3. Stand in the pouring rain.
4. Look at some birds flying in the sky.
5. Listen to a song in a language you don’t understand. Imagine what they’re saying.
6. Follow a weird person on Twitter. Read his tweets.
7. Do a puzzle, but not in the way it’s meant to be done.
8. Pick a random book, open a page somewhere and read the first sentence.
9. Think about the subject as if you where a laborist. Or a tramp.
10. Put on some glasses (or put them off, if you normally wear them).
11. Close your eyes and hold your breath for a minute.
12. Put out all the lights and close the curtains.
13. Then light a candle.
14. Blow some wind in the flame, watch it dance.
15. Blow it out and smell it.
16. Put on a shirt, inside out.
20. Do a dance in the middle of the room.
21. Think of a 2 line poem that rhymes.
22. Imagine how Al Capone would solve it.
23. Look at a newspaper and read it upside down.
24. Go outside and talk to somebody.
25. Pretend surfing.
26. Turn on the television. Stop at the first channel you see somebody wearing a red shirt.
27. Read a pulp magazine.
28. Empty your etui above your desk.
29. Take a pen and imagine smoking it like a cigarette.
30. Play chess with yourself.
31. Drink two glasses of water within a minute.
32. Try to write with your wrong hand.
33. Watch a television show without it’s sound on.
34. Write to your future self.
35. Try to balance a pen between your top lip and nose.
36. Sit reversed on your chair.
37. Think as a serial killer.
38. Don’t blink for a minute.
39. Draw a face on your finger. Let it act.
40. Take a cold shower.
41. Chew on a pen. Analyse it’s taste.
42. Talk like a baby.
43. Draw an alien.
44. Look at the ceiling for a minute.
45. Go smell at some teabags.
46. Bite a fingernail off.
47. Look at a cat video on YouTube. Read some comments too.
48. Write the word ‘yellow’ with a blue-ink pen.
49. Write an SMS to yourself.
50. Look at the backside of a photoframe.

As you can perhaps imagine, this list can be heaps longer, so feel free to add more interesting things 😉

Chandra Wijaya Tan


Sharp is his pencil and modest are his words: ‘I don’t brag unless it’s mandatory.’ With his head in the clouds, Chandra Wijaya Tan is about to graduate in Advertising at the London School of Public Relations in Jakarta, Indonesia. He has work experience at Y&R Jakarta and does freelancing (although he says this is the advertising term of being unemployed).

Could you tell us a bit about yourself?
Who I am: Just a person who tries to do good things and make a difference in everything I do.

What I do: Been interning in Y&R Jakarta as a Copywriter. Prior to that, I’ve been submitting essays for competitions. Despite not particularly good at it, I enjoyed the thrill of debating and later found myself more suited to adjudicating debates. These valuable experiences helped me to define my writing style.

What do you enjoy most about working in advertising?
The unpredictability. You never knew what kind of work awaits you, how your idea will be received, or even how long will you stay in one place. Now this may sound ridiculous, but I believe that people yearn for a bit of chaos to spice up their otherwise dull lives. Some get their dose from alcohols or weeds; I get mine from all the possibilities this creative industry has to offer.

Can you describe advertising in Indonesia?
Being one of the largest tobacco markets in the world, expect plenty of tobacco advertisements in Indonesia. Celebrity endorsement is also very popular, at times overshadowing the advertised product. Using catchy phrases highly increases the probability that people will talk about your advertisement, as they love to make jokes out of them.

For you, what makes a good advertisement?
A good advertisement fulfills its intended purpose. Beyond that, it’s a great one.

Can one learn copywriting, or do you simply have to be born with talent for it?
Talent is never a substitute for hard work. Read more than the average person, revise until you feel satisfied with your work; you’ll eventually get better. Then you might start to hear people praising the talent you never knew you had before.

Is long copy really dead?
Honestly, I am not so sure. Is long copy dead when people stopped reading them, or when people stopped writing them?

And last, what’s the best advice you can give to students around the world, who are pursuing a career in advertising?
Hang an inspirational quote on your wall.