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Now I Challenge You to Find One Strategy a Day

4 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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When you see an ad, can you identify the insight that led to the idea? Can you do it every day? For a month?

If you can reverse engineer insights that others found, you can find better ones for your own ideas.

So, I challenge you. You did an ad-a-day. So are you up for this?


When I teach for The Book Shop, I make my students bring one thing to every single class. Written on a big sheet of paper, in big black Sharpie, in one sentence each, are two things: their insight and idea.

It's because your insight is the backbone of your idea.

However, we tell students to look at Archive Magazines and Cannes Lions winners to see great ideas, without urging them to figure out why they're great ideas.

Great ideas always have a great insight, whether you've articulated it or not. But without that articulation, you don't know why your idea even exists. You'll struggle to create more than a clever one-off, and your campaign will feel like a bunch of matching luggage and resizes, rather than unique, connected executions.

So, let's learn the same way. Look at Archive, Cannes Lions, or every idea you see out there. Then figure out the why. Reverse engineer the insight.



Strategy is the Whole Thing

Most think that finding insights is the job of a Strategist, not a Creative. Now, I'm just a creative who loves insights. But did you know that Strategy, as a separate discipline in advertising, didn't even exist until the Brits broke it out in the 1970s and 1980s?

Before that, it was more of a Creative responsibility. Good strategy is at the core of any campaign. So, if you come up with ideas, you need to be able to come up with insights. Or at least identify them.

Your insight is the backbone of your idea.

Whether you're a strategic planner or a creative, solid strategy is essential to what you do.

By the way, I say "strategy," because that's the whole picture. Just identifying the insight is only one part of it. You need to figure out what the deeper problem is they're trying to solve. Figure out what the truth is they came up with. Then, articulate the idea. The execution (the campaign) is what you see as the ad itself.

The Rules of Strat-a-Day

Okay, here's the challenge: find an ad you like and identify the strategy behind it. One every day, for a month.

Step 1: Find an ad.

This is easy. They're all around us. I'd suggest starting with well-thought-out ideas, which you'll probably find in any awards directory. Cannes, The Drum, One Show...there's a bunch of them.

Step 2: Articulate the Strategy

I'm gonna steal something to help you. Mark Pollard (@markpollard on instagram and @markpollardstrategist on linkedin) came up with this great framework to define strategy. It's simple, clear, and I wish every single brief I got, looked like this:

Here's how he breaks it down:

  • Problem: The human problem behind the business problem. Another way of saying it is what's the thing they're trying to change in people? And it's not "to buy this thing."
  • Insight: An unspoken truth that sheds new light on the problem. Or what's standing in the way of humans solving the problem?
  • Advantage (Edge): What makes you unique & motivating in people's minds? Or what is the brand's strength, related to the problem?
  • Strategy (or Idea): A new way of seeing the business based on all that. Or what's a clever way to say how the brand's advantage and insight work together to solve the problem?

(By the way, Mark has a podcast called "Sweathead" and a book coming out. Buy the book. I know I will.)

Step 3: Write it Out

Identifying it is only part of it. The truly important part is to actually articulate it. Listen to your mom: use your words.

That whole plus-sign framework above is perfect for writing them out. Mark shows a bunch on his insta (Crocs, The Beyond Burger, Squatty Potty), but here's one that I did:

Good Strategy Creates Good Ideas

Maybe this sounds easy for you. Maybe this sounds impossible. Either way, doing this will make you a better creative.

If you can identify strategy, you'll learn what good strategy is and what bad strategy is. You'll be able to articulate what the insight is. Which means you'll be able to articulate your own, when you find it.

So, grow a backbone and try it for yourself.

Thanks for reading!

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

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