The clack-clack ding-ding of the advertising world

You know, considering they’re supposed to be stuffed to the gills with creative thinkers, it’s surprising that all advertising agencies look and feel the same as each other.

Every one I set foot in has been kitted out by IKEA for Pubs by the look of things. Pinball, pool and table football proliferate. If they ever decide to prohibit alcohol consumption those games suppliers won’t worry, they’ll still do a healthy trade with the coolerati of the sales world.

I’m told it’s all to do with psychology. Creatives need to stimulate different parts of their brain in order to get ideas. This means that they need to play pool, pinball or table football on a regular basis. Another thing creatives do to stimulate creativity is to go for coffee and eat fruit. There’s always plenty of fruit in advertising agencies and we all know how fruit and coffee aid creativity.

Anyway, getting back to the psychology stuff, apparently it’s all to do with brain waves. You know how when you’re dropping off, and you’re just in that strange zone between awake and asleep? That’s the time when your brain plays little tricks on you and you’re not sure if what you’re thinking is truth or imagination. Well that’s how great ideas emerge.

They reckon that before children go through puberty they do this kind of stuff all the time, that’s why they come up with all that crazy creative stuff that we adults tell them doesn’t make sense or couldn’t work.

So how can adults capture this creativity? How do we fabricate that half-wake half-sleep moment and when we do, how do we harness the thoughts and ideas?

Thomas Edison had a method. He would doze off in a comfortable armchair with his hands overhanging the armrests. Lightly held between the fingers of each hand was a steel ball bearing. As he dropped off into relaxation the ball from one hand or the other would drop onto a pile of china plates below. This would startle him into waking up and he would quickly jot down notes about whatever was drifting across his mind at the drop point. Ingenious, eh?

This dropping off bit is important. You’ve got to be a little tired to get into this “hypnagogic”? state. Not so easy to do in a busy advertising agency. Just imagine if instead of pool tables they had rows of lovely big easy chairs with sullen looking T-shirt and jeans clad fellas all falling asleep together?

The point at which we become creative is called “Letting Go”?  Not literally like Edison letting go of the ball bearings but letting go of all the barriers that keep us logical and sensible. You don’t need to be tired and about to drop off to be creative. Children let go all the time. Just spend a day with my son if you don’t believe me. He lives in a world of ideas, thoughts and creativity. He comes up with crazy stuff all the time. He is a one boy creative department.

So that’s what they’re trying to reproduce in Soho and Madison Avenue. Play. The repetitive stuff we do is what takes the brain into that soporific zone where the ideas start to flow. So maybe playing pool, pinball or table football is the key to creativity?

Or maybe it’s another “me too” product. I mean, why can’t these guys be more creative than copying each other’s playgrounds? They are supposed to be creative after all? I’m hoping that the next ad agency I visit does have a row of snoozing cool dudes in soft seats. The sound of smashing china plates would at least make a change from the clack-clack ding-ding of pool balls and pinball.

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