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Where’s the best place to go for creative and innovative ideas?

Do you like new creative ideas?

I do. I love it when someone comes up with an idea that is genuinely clever, new and racy. I get excited by the potential opportunities such ideas present.

In almost twenty years as a marketer I have seen my fair share of agency pitches for advertising campaigns. Or proposals for communications collateral to support a proposition launch. I’ve seen budgets for such campaigns as low as a few thousand pounds to many millions. But no matter how much budget was available to entice the agency to win the job, I have on occasion felt disappointed when I see their pitches.

Sometimes they are too “samey”. Others are too safe or lack any originality. Granted the agency responds to a brief written by me so I have to make sure that I haven’t caused my disappointment with poorly written requirements. But when I know I have given a strong brief, the heart sinking feeling of disappointment is even harder to bear when a pitch lacks that unique spark.

For the last few years we have sponsored the Product Design students at The Glasgow School of Art (GSA) to run a creative project. This year we asked them to come up with four original ideas for what a Mutual Company might offer as its proposition. Mutuality is perhaps a bit of a tired concept. And not many people understand that unlike a Public Company, which shareholders own, it’s the customers that own a Mutual Company.

In the past I have been very impressed by the concepts the students have come up with, so I was looking forward to seeing what their ideas were. Could they make mutuality interesting?

Needless to say their presentations overwhelmed me. The six students had locked themselves away in a brainstorming room for a week. Not only had they met our brief and come up with four concepts, but they had also produced posters, leaflets and copy explaining the proposition, and flow charts to show their processes.

What's the best place to go for creative and innovative ideas?
Some of the material the students put together.

Their production was professional. The material was eye-catching, Their copy was simple and to the point.

But the jaw dropping moment came when I realised that they had come up with two ideas which were genuinely original. In fact they were innovative, clever and racy. I almost felt like nipping out and filing a few patents. Yes really their ideas were that good.

Okay so there might have been a bit of naivety in some of the high level concepts, but these students are not (yet) business people.

And here’s the thing. They put all this together for a prize amount of just over one thousand pounds.

Their ideas were fresher, more interesting, and more exciting than agency pitches I have seen for a hundred, maybe a thousand times that amount of money.

So well done to Santini Basra, Steven Payne, Eloise Foster-Smith, Yee Ruh Ooi, Alice Gunn, Struan Wood and to their Professor, Gordon Hush for such an exciting presentation.

What's the best place to go for creative and innovative ideas?
From left to right: Gordon Hush, Santini Basra, Steven Payne, me, Eloise Foster-Smith, Yee Ruh Ooi, Alice Gunn and Struan Wood.

I wish you all the very best for the future.

And do you hear me big corporate enterprises? If you end up employing one of these guys one day, don’t you dare stifle their creativity with bureaucracy and governance.

And if you are thinking of spending a fortune on an agency, why not try some students first, and then refine their ideas with an agency later? That’s what I’m going to do. I bet I end up being disappointed much less in future.

Your turn: I would really like to hear your stories about new creative and innovative ideas. Where do you go for inspiration. What’s the most unlikely source of innovative thinking that you have found. Please leave a comment below or paste a link to your own articles.