When Luke Skywalker needs to overcome his demons, he doesn’t Google Calendar a meeting to discuss strategic options. He finds his strength through the power of instinct.
That’s why I like to refer to my secret weapon as The Force—the intuitive voodoo that’s in every one of us, whether we’re aware of it or not.
Our industry is under the misconception that creatives are the ones who provide the answer. In reality most of our time is spent trying to work out the problem. Gnarly and elusive, they’re often hard to pin down (the problem that is, not the creatives). But wimp out trying to nail the problem and you’re about to miss out on the magic.
Luckily there’s something that can help us get there: stories. Stories are the easiest way to understand complex issues, and the simplest route to the head via the heart. And at the heart of every story, from the Aeneid to Coronation Street, is conflict. Luke has his Darth, Cinderella has her Ugly Sisters, Bart Simpson has his Sideshow Bob: in every story is a strange, dark power that’s driving the action forward
Isolating the antagonist and defining them is the clearest way to get to a compelling story. Once you have that, the idea usually presents itself. The rest is just craft.
However, finding the tension in the story is not always straightforward. Like many things in life, what you are for or against is often rooted deep within the unconscious. You have to feel the tension as much as you rationalise it.
Too much left brain strategic thought will land you in dead ends. Over-thinking the problem will obstruct your vision. Trying to meet all the client’s demands will leave you with a sterile plan. It’s often why a creative’s first instinct is to make a joke of the brief. It’s the first step towards that tension.
The best and most simple way for me is to not think about it, to let my subconscious take over and allow it to surface the idea. This is when I use The Force, it’s my way of feeling for the conflict in a problem. It’s how I find the strength for inspiration.
Step back, have faith. And don’t be afraid to run towards the danger, because the best ideas are usually on the other side of the flames.
Brian Cooper is executive creative director of Aesop