Creative Exercises to Keep Your Mind Sharp

Adult Coloring Books - Brief
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In a previous post, you were presented with 10 challenges to aid creative thinking. Now, it's time to up the ante, with some problems that delve a little deeper, take a little more of your time, and perhaps a little more creativity.

You obviously don't have to do them all, but when you have a lull between projects and need something to keep your mind on its toes, these exercises a great place to start.

Please note, although these exercises are aimed at people in the creative department, anyone in advertising and marketing, from the junior account executive to the CEO, should try them out. Everyone should stay sharp.​

Reverse Engineer An Ad

Sadly, this one may also have a practical application. Whether you work in an agency, or in house, you may one day be presented with this stinker of a job:

"The client has an image they love, they need a headline or concept based around it."

Creative people everywhere are screaming. That's not how advertising works. But, life in advertising is never about ideal scenarios. Bearing that in mind, type one of the following 10 words into your favorite stock photo site (Getty and iStock are two good ones) and write an interesting ad for the fourth image on the page.

  • Intimacy
  • Laughter
  • Alone
  • Regret
  • Jump
  • Strain
  • Adventure
  • Punishment
  • Death
  • Marketing

Go One Better Than Your Favorite Campaign

We all have favorite ads or ad campaigns. My personal favorite is the VW Beetle campaign by Bill Bernbach and DDB. So, what I'm suggesting next is almost an impossibility for me, but I've tried it anyway. Take your favorite ad or ad campaign and see if you can improve it. Maybe it needs a new headline, or the copy needs cutting down. Perhaps the art direction needs tweaking. Don't worry, no one will ever see the results, but the thinking behind it can be invaluable in realizing that there is more than one great solution to any problem.

The Ultimate Tool For Creatives

If you're a copywriter or art director in the creative department, you are surrounded by all sorts of tools and gadgets that help you come up with your daily works of genius. No doubt that list includes:

  • Marker pens
  • Bleed proof paper
  • Computer
  • Sketchpad
  • Ballpoint pen
  • Paper clips
  • Cell phone
  • Mouse
  • Coffee cup

Your mission today, should you choose to accept it, is to use those elements to create an all-in-one tool that any creative person would find invaluable. Is it a coffee cup with a penholder and tear-off notepad? Over to you…

The Doodle Catalyst

I play this one with my children and have been since they were old enough to pick up a crayon. In fact, I played it with my sister over 30 years ago. It's fun, it's quick and easy, and it can really get the wheels spinning.

Basically, you have 1 second to draw a doodle on a blank sheet of paper. Close your eyes if you want. Or even better, ask someone else in your department to do it. When you have it, photocopy it 10 times, and then make 10 completely different creations from that one starting point.

While silly, it is rooted in what we do every day in advertising. From one creative brief, we must produce many different ideas. If you like, make it a weekly contest for everyone in the agency. Pin up a new doodle every Monday, and see what people have come up with by Friday.

Rename a Movie That Could Use a Better Title

There has been a lot of talk recently about John Carter, the Disney movie that failed to live up to so many expectations. The tragedy is that roughly 70% of the people who went to see the movie liked it. There has been a lot of pontificating about the poor box office results, and the name is taking the biggest beating. It doesn't mean anything to the potential audience. In fact, it sounds more like a biopic, say John Adams or J. Edgar, than a fun, out-of-this-world movie filled with special effects and action for the family.

Similarly, one of the best films ever made, The Shawshank Redemption, had a title that made people stay away from the theaters. The tragedy. So, your task - rename a decent movie with a title that leaves a lot to be desired. Here are some starts for you. Look them up at Rotten Tomatoes to find out what they're about if you don't know already.

  • John Carter
  • The Shawshank Redemption
  • Cinderella Man
  • K19 - The Widowmaker
  • Ordinary People
  • To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar
  • K-Pax
  • The Constant Gardener