Don't Go Looking for Creative Ideas. Listen for Them Instead

When music is the beginning of inspiration

I don't know exactly where inspiration for advertising comes from. I know many people derive an idea from a photo or a piece of art, or God forbid, a YouTube video, but I have never tried to glean an idea through others' work. What does give me some sort of creative push is music. 

People ask "What's your favorite song?" and I can't answer. I listen to too many styles and genres that I simply can't pick. But when listening to a new artist or a new album, I identify with their journey to create something that moves you. And many do. 

I feel the artists reaching for subjects and finding the lyrics to describe their thoughts in a way that I wish I could. Great headlines are like chorus lines. The beats are like the tone of a conversation, and somehow they move me to dream a little more. I even picture what comes to mind as I internalize my own version of what their story inspires in me. 

Advertising is problem solving. So, for the most part, I stick to the facts. And once the facts are clear, we are free to make music with them. What we do combines the very best of harnessing our creativity and using that to create a solution to a problem. 

The correlation I've found between music and our industry has been through trying to set a tone and a mood for a brand to live by. When we get it right, the work sings. 

Music is the most democratic of arts. It doesn't prescribe a visual; it lets you form your own. And just maybe, it's a picture that we all can relate to, even admire, for it feels universal. It feels powerful, and it feels authentic. At the end of the day, isn't authenticity what people crave? 

So, if you want an idea, don't go looking for one. Sit and listen. Let the moods of music put you in a place where you are living in the moment of a song. Picture what it is telling you. And then write it down. This is where creative ideas begin.

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Chuck McBride
Chuck McBride is founder and chief creative officer of Cutwater.