Paul Saxton

Advertising and marketing copywriter based in Norwich. I can help you to build your brand by helping you to sell your products and services.

James Webb Young - A Technique For Producing Ideas

The second of our advertising book recommendations:

One of the best things about A Technique For Producing Ideas is that it’s only around 50 (very small) pages long. It can be read in less than an hour. So if you’re one of those advertising people who doesn’t like to read books, this is an excellent way to dip your illiterate toe into the vast, thrilling waters of discovery and knowledge.

Written by legendary ad man James Webb Young, and first published in the 1940s, the book delivers an almost foolproof method for generating ideas. When I first read it I was hoping to discover some kind of magical creative formula. There is a magical formula but, as it turned out, it was almost exactly the same formula I had always relied on – whether that was for advertising or the other creative thingies I’ve been involved in. What I mainly took from the book was that it was absolutely fine for me to have that (long) moment of putting things completely out of my mind and waiting for the idea to just miraculously appear. I’d always thought that was just my own combination of arrogance, laziness and wishful thinking.

The technique basically consists of the following five stages:

1. Do your research.

2. Absorb the material you’ve gathered.

3. Forget about it.

4. Experience the aha! moment.

5. Work on your idea.

Of course, if it were as easy as that you wouldn’t need to read the book. Which is just as well because it’s in the actual reading that the magic really happens. Quite simply, Young was a beautiful – and beautifully clear – writer. His words go in and they stay in.

The blurb on the back cover says: ‘Young’s unique insights will help you look inside yourself to find that big, elusive idea – and once and for all lift the mystery from the creative process.’ Well, it certainly does that. But there is a caveat – this formula won’t work if you’re not a creative person. As far as Young’s concerned (taking his cue from the theories of the Italian sociologist Pareto) there are two types of people: speculators and stockholders. So if you’re in the latter camp, you’d probably be wasting your time reading the book.

Available here – brand spanking new. If you get nothing else from it, you’ll at least discover whether you’re a speculator or a stockholder.