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Six Ways to Think out of the Box: A guide to engineering award-winning ideas (that are persuasive too!)

By HFI Writer Vikram Chauhan, CUA 

Ask any creative director of any advertising agency and he will tell you that creative ideation is a highly complex thinking process — difficult to institutionalize and control.

Or…maybe not.

An experiment conducted by an Israeli research team in 1999 shows that even in a complex thinking process certain patterns of creativity emerge. The team assembled a group of 200 award-winning, highly regarded ads, and after studying them, decided that 89% could be classified by just six templates. (Just like the “seven basic plots” that all stories follow.)

The research team also tried to use their six templates to classify 200 other ads that had not received awards. When the researchers tried to classify these less successful ads, they could classify only two percent of them.

The researchers didn’t stop there. They asked three test groups of ordinary people to create ads and then tested them with consumers. The ads created by the test group, trained for just two hours to use these six templates, were rated 50% more creative than ads created by other test groups. Also, the consumers in the experiment were 55% more positive about the products and services featured in the template-driven ads than the products and services featured in the non-template-driven ads.

The Bottom Line: Highly creative ads are more predictable than uncreative ones. If you want to spread your ideas to other people, you should work within the confines of the rules that have allowed other ideas to succeed over time. You may want to invent new ideas, not new rules.

The REAL Bottom Line: This research is based on award-winning ads. And the award-winning ads may not necessarily be the most persuasive. (Ergo, it’s not surprising that every advertising award ceremony sees a number of “not so genuine ads” submitted each year only to win awards.)

To achieve REAL results, you need to understand the deep intellectual and emotional drives and blocks of your customers. You need to engineer a solid theme, frame and meme based on these insights and use scientific persuasion tools to support them. Then, you may use any of these six templates to create ads that not only are award-winning, but get the desired results.

Or maybe, as T.S. Elliot put it: “I always feel it’s not wise to violate rules until you know how to observe them.”

The Six Creative Templates are…

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