Why your best ideas may never see daylight

Chief Creative Officer

Whenever a client asks me to describe our creative process, I always say the same thing …


It’s not that we creative types practice some sort of dark art in the meandering catacombs beneath the agency.

(Although I could get behind the matching robes.)

It’s just tough to elegantly explain something that can cause feelings of both crippling anxiety and incendiary brilliance AT THE SAME TIME.

Luke Sullivan, author of the un-put-downable Hey Whipple, Squeeze This, compares the creative process to washing a pig. It’s messy, unpredictable, and something you’d never want to do in your church clothes.

So, you can imagine my horror when a client didn’t just ask about our brainstorming sessions …

He wanted in on one.


This was a first—the equivalent of your mom asking to sit in on your next colonoscopy.

The exposure’s bad enough without having to deal with a voice from the wings critiquing your posture too.

Of course, we said YES. He’s a good guy, full of ideas, and loves pushing boundaries.

Our kinda people.

But it was his reason to be included that had us praying for car trouble …

💀 To kill bad ideas 💀

He felt it would be more efficient to keep us from spending our time—and his money—on exploring ideas that may not have a shot at taking flight.

Flawed thinking if you ask me. But my client’s not to blame. Know who is?

The nitwit who first associated the idea with a lightbulb.

That’s not how it works.

Great ideas don’t burst through the door in full costume and a Crest 3D White smile.


You’ll find three kinds of ideas in every brainstorm. 👇

First are the ones that show up at three in the morning unshaven, stinking of gin, with a sole fluffing off their shoe. Your first instinct is to turn them away. But you don’t know how they might look after a shower and a hot meal. 

Keep those.

Then, there are ideas that present themselves as small Victorian children. Not fully matured, but they’ve got promise. I sit them on the bench, give each one a juice box, and tell them to stay put until I get back.

Finally, there are the pretty ones that waltz into the room without a single blemish or hair out of place. And do I smell lavender? I guess there’s only one thing to do with this bunch …

Kill them. All of them. And quickly, please.

Because these little gremlins are not your friends.

Any idea that feels too good, too fast is either expected, been done before, or worse …

A pun.

Those are the kinds of ideas my client would have loved. And before he’d even taken off his coat.

. . .

. . .

There’s a reason why it’s called the creative process.

Because great ideas aren’t birthed. They’re built.

One of history’s best copywriters, Eugene Schwartz, said: “A better word for creativity is connectivity.”

You’re connecting the thing you’re selling to pretty much anything else to solve the business problem in an interesting way.

That takes time. 

Time to stink up the joint with every approach you can think of—even if most are roads to nowhere.

Time to take a breather to let your ideas run wild and sort themselves out in your subconscious.

Time to dive back in and wrestle with those feisty and elusive beasts until you’ve spiffed up a select few to be trotted out for judgment.

Kinda like washing a pig.

So, before you give your team a day or two to “come up with some ideas,” ask yourself—

“Do I want rushed work? … Or do I want their best work?”


And hey, one last thing …

I didn’t mention him by name, but I want you to know my client blessed this nugget before it was published. 

Good sport, that one. And handsome. (That was his one condition.)

Here’s a song to play you out >>> 

See you next time. – Matt

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Chief Creative Officer
Matt is a professional storyteller. That used to be a thinly veiled way to say you still lived with your parents. But the truth is stories have existed since the dawn of humanity and they still have the power to move people, even if it’s no longer from the path of a charging mammoth. Throughout his career on both the agency and client sides, Matt’s work has been known to compel audiences to indulge in higher thread counts, abandon Lenten sacrifice, or move to the suburbs. He’ll even conjugate a noun if he has to. The bottom line: Matt is our agency twofer. Strategy and Creative. The Big Idea and Stealth Deployment. He’s a single expense yielding a dual return. And who doesn’t love a bargain?

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