Creative effectiveness


with Ralf Langwost


Founder of the Idea Management Institute for top-creative process-design and author of “How to catch the big idea” – The strategies of the top-creative’s and “Creative effectiveness”.

Q: What is special about IdeaManagement?

A: Now first it is about managing ideas. It is not a simple creative technique. The name comes from transfering the principles of quality management to the creative product – the idea. And professional creatives, account people, planners and clients who are involved in the creative product should know how to improve it. And to come up with Ideas on a very high level repeatedly.

Q: Why do think this is unique?

A: Now most people are able to have an idea by coincidence. But very few are able to repeat great work. And as soon as you understand, that an idea is always a result of a conscious or subconscisous process you can start to improve this process. Great Ideas are just the result of a great and precise process. That is why top-creatives can repeatedly have great ideas.

Q: How did you find out?

A: Some years ago we did a worldwide creative research project. We were defining the worldwide top-creatives by analysing the 9 most important international award shows over 7 years and after defining who are the best of the best – like John Hegarty, Dan Wieden, Jeff Goodby and so on, we went on to anayse how they came up with their best ideas through in-depth interviews. So know we know what they all have in common.

Q: And what did you do with this knowledge?

A: We developed a 15 modules training that is the first holistic training that teaches how to solve a market problem with a great idea. It starts with the clients problem, goes on with the brief, the re-brief, insight definition, strategy, creative brief, ideafinding, ideadescription, evalutation, presentation, production and so on. It for the first time covers the entire creative solution process – with steps like „ideadescription“ which is very important and is not delivered by any other training. But it is so important to evaluate an idea.

Q: Can you give an example?

A: When I recently gave a presentation I asked 650 managers in communication to write down the idea of a tv-commercial in one simple sentence. We then collected the answers and evaluated them and the result was shocking: only 6 out of 650 decribed the idea, the other 644 desribed the execution. So it was very clear that one has a big problem in idea evaluation, if you do not know what the idea is. Most great work – and I mean relevant and selling ideas that transfer their message with a great idea – is killed or weakened because the people got never trained in how to describe an idea. So the one is talking about the strategy, the message and another on is questioning execution. They can have a big fight about all the details, but nobody really refers to the idea.

Q: So how do you recognize an idea?

A: You can bring it down in one simple sentence. And if you cannot, you either did not understand what is the idea or you just don´t have one.

Q: Who should be able to describe an idea?

A: Everybody in the creative process who is involved in the creative product, like the advertising, product, brand manager – so the decision maker on the client side. And the account manager, planner and creatives on the client side, but also production people. The problem is, that this subject is not trained in any communication or media university and also not in economy. Lets use an analogy: Most people in advertising cook, but they don´t know what is a truffle or how to find them – so greatness stays coiincidence for most people and IdeaMangement is going to change this.

Q: How exactly does this training deliver these contents?

A: We deliver these contents in our Creative Professional Qualification that ends with a tough testing in theory and practice. We therefore train agencies and clients in-house in groups of max 18 people. The qualification consists of three 2 days workshops that follow a simple principle: You must have understanding to be outstanding! All our work is focussed to work out the WOW! Idea on strategy. So for us it is important that the ideas really solves a relevant market problem for the client or the brand. That is why the first workshop (creative planning) focusses on developing an inspiring understanding of the problem. People learn how to describe the problem in an exciting way and to come up with a relevant strategy. The second workshop (creative performance) focusses on how to transform this solution in an even more surprising communication. And the third workshop (creative leadership) is about implementing and leading this problem-solution-by-surprise-process for the team, the brand and the clients products.

Q: Where and when to start?

A: It does not matter. It is like walking: Just start – it does not matter if you start with the left or the right leg, but for a good run and great result you should be able to run fast. So take the first step and test the concept in our workshop in Dubai. You will improve the process in your daily business instantly.

Q: And what is most dangerous in daily business?

A: First that people do not have enough understanding so they stay too superficial and as input defines output, their idea will be superficial. Problem understanding must be there. But sometimes the danger is that people know too much about the product and the client and they tell  you: „The client will never buy that“ but how can they know? Both too shallow or much information leads to copy cats and to an excape where the client pays the bill but does not get any original answer and not a big response from the market.

Q: So you increase the value of an Idea?

A: Absolutely! Our last research where we found out, what effectiveness winners and Cannes winners have in common brought up 7 principles how an idea builds value. And all great work follows these principles that can be trained. Once a media manager told me, that a great idea only needs one contact and then it develops its viral power. Just think about how this is multiplying the clients budget. When he spend only 1 Mio US but gets back a 10 Million reaction from the market. The idea alway is the power behind very successful advertising and it is more important than ever to be able to manage this idea.

Q: How are clients involved in that training?

A: Clients and agencies are doing the workshop together. First to fasten the process, second to have better results and third to have the same language when discussing the work. All three benefits are really appreciated by clients who also love processes and transparency. The agencies loves it because it is so much faster and brings up better results. We recently did a workshop in Chicago for BBDO where the client jumped up and applauded to the team for the work, when did that happen the last time in normal work?

Q: And regarding the speed?

A: Now when you can reduce coincidence and increase relevance so get very fast. Just think about how many of the work in a process is correcting ideas, testing them, combining them, cutting them, pimping them up – all because the idea was not right or surprising enough. You save a lot of time and time is money more than ever in these times.

Q: Do you have an example?

A: When the client gives you a great brief (not a lousy one, like normally) you will have first ideas already during the brief. You wont tell them, because you are paid by hours, but actually with the right information you spark off ideas very fast. And if it is not fast, something is wrong in the process. And we train people to recognize this and to correct the process so they speed up and get a better value for money.

Q: Where can we experience this process?

A: In our Catch the Big Idea training in Dubai from 8 – 9 June 2009, but if you find a group of people here in Kuwait, I will also come to Kuwait – so you save some travel costs. In this workshop you experience in 2 days all neccessary steps and you work on real cases. So the time is well invested and you will come up with a great idea guaranteed. In our last workshop the first great shots were on the table after 10 minutes, when the people really understood the deeper market problem. After that everything fell into place. That by the way is the reason for our logo. Take the right position, know what to do and Ideas will come to you. It is a relaxed play and much more impactful than copying other peoples work or to produce fakes just for getting an award. Ideas must work in the market and if not you are just not a creative professional. It is so simple.

Great Ideas are no coincidences, they are the results of a great process

For more information please visit

Related links:

Workshop Insights

Ideas that Sell – Trailer

Cannes Speech 2007

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