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How to Prove that Your Idea Actually Has an Insight

3 min read

I'm Jeremy Carson, and this is everything I wish I knew about the advertising and creative industry when I got started. And everything I'm discovering as a Creative Director today.
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Remember that episode of Mad Men?

Don Draper had to come up with an idea for Lucky Strike Cigarettes. But at the same time, cigarettes were found to cause cancer.

Everyone was talking about cancer. But Lucky Strike was different.

They were toasted.

It was simple.


He looked at society and found a human truth: People want to smoke, but don't want their brand to cause cancer.

So, he had an idea: Be the only brand not associating with cancer.

Then he built off a product truth: Lucky Strikes are toasted.

It grew out of the essential ingredient to a great idea.

The insight.

Insight Before Idea, Idea Before Execution

Most creatives have learned the difference between an idea and an execution.

  • Execution - The elements of the campaign, like the billboard, the spot, the social content, the banner, etc.
  • Idea - The overarching thought that connects all the executions.

But the best ideas come from the part everyone forgets: the insight.

Insights ground the concept in something more than superficial concepts. It helps us stay away from doing cool things for the sake of them being cool. Or speaking to an insider audience.

A good insight leads to a great idea.

They create a deeper connection between our ideas and our audience. Because they tap into undeniable truths.

And more often than not, great insights create tension. Something for the idea to push off of. Something for us to solve. And as creatives, we love solving problems.

When Do You Find the Insight?

It's the "why" for the entire campaign.

So, it should be the first thing.

Because without a "why," the "what" (the idea) can't lead to the "how" (the executions).

Sometimes people start with the "what," the idea. Then they try to figure out why the idea makes sense.

Let me tell you from experience: that's much harder. You spend time justifying the idea you've fallen in love with (or even worse, the execution), rather than building a bulletproof foundation from the beginning.

More often than not, they'll happen at the same time.

You'll come up with an idea and consider why that idea is so strong, then the insight will rear its head, which will sharpen the idea, which will make the whole thing awesome.

How to Find an Insight

You'll need to do some research. Hit the internet. Talk to people. Get out of your creative bubble and look at the world.

It's kind of like coming up with an idea. We don't really know where they come from. But you can learn to recognize them:

Human Truths

Something universal and unexpected that we can all relate to.

We know exercise is good for us, but finding the motivation is difficult. (Nike: Just Do It)

Product Truths

Usually growing out of a human need, but based in the product.

Some people just want a car that gets them from Point A to Point B. (Toyota Yaris: It's a Car!)


An interesting or surprising piece of information.

It's impossible to keep your eyes open when you sneeze. So if you sneeze while you're driving, for 300 milliseconds, you can't see what's happening. (Toyota Pre-Collision System: Safe Happens Fast)

Who Comes Up With Insights?

Insights are inherently strategic.

Ideally, strategic planners would find them. It's their ability to see the audience, dive into culture, and discover insightful tidbits.

But that's not always how it is.

Sometimes, the strategy is broad. And you have to find the single insight that connects your idea.

As a creative, learn to develop the insights yourself.

It'll make you a better creative. And you'll understand why one idea works and another doesn't.

Make Ideas Great Again

It's obvious when you think about it.

Insights are the root of great ideas.

So, let's make our ideas great again. Enough of the "it's just a cool idea." Connect to your audience. Connect to society.

Be a better creative.

Thanks for reading!

If you enjoyed this, say hello @thejeremycarson. LinkedIn Instagram TikTok