By: Marne Brobeck

Since 1968, Keebler® has made the claim that their cookies are baked by elves in a hollow tree. It would be safe to say that probably wasn’t on the creative brief. Yet, one creative at Leo Burnett looked beyond the many rows of gray lines on that white sheet of paper and saw something magical. Like the proverbial fly on the wall, I would love to have seen the client’s face when the agency presented the storyboards showing those little apron-wearing munchkins busy at work–inside a tree nonetheless. The long blank stare, the sound of finger rolls on the conference room table top while the creative team managed to maintain a pasted-on smile. Maybe the client applauded. Or asked the question, “What are you guys smoking?” (I’ve had clients do both.) So, where do these ideas come from?


My business partner, who I respectfully call “The Suit”, envisions an old-fashioned well where I lower my bucket in search of the next big idea. If only it were that easy. What I do know is that all really good ideas start with “What if?” This is the path that leads to any and all possibilities. It throws a spotlight on an idea, if only for a moment, thus giving it a chance to become something tangible. But for that to happen, someone has to take it by the hand and walk it down that path of possibilities. This is where great concepts begin. Without “What if?” you’re probably going to spend a whole lot of design time trying to dress up a bad idea and wonder­­­ why it isn’t magical. This is the mind set of the often sad and misguided people who think it’s all about the design. “Make it Pop!” they shout. I’ve witnessed well-educated people trying to find the formula for producing brilliantly designed advertising. From the Fibonacci spiral, to Michelangelo’s palate of receding and advancing colors, they’re determined to crack the code. Therein lies the problem.

The simple truth is… there is no formula. There’s only ideas that manifest, first in our imagination and then in our lives.

So, pay no attention to little people baking cookies in a hollow tree, because they’re only make believe, right?