Argh! You’ve got a next-day deadline, and your client expects a big idea that will move the needle this quarter! The pressure is on to deliver a creative campaign idea, topic or tagline, but you’re staring at a blank screen.

In the marketing world, it’s a frustratingly familiar scenario, so tear out this page and pin it next to your desk. Then, take a deep breath, and dive in.

Ty James Largo is CEO of the award-winning creative agency, AWE Collective.

1. Don’t be basic. Exclude the obvious.

True creative thinking needs an unconventional entry point. Jot down 10 basic ideas and words that are too obvious or cliché –– and vow to never use them. Be hard on yourself! Saying “no” is a huge part of creative thinking, so leave conventional starting points in the past.

2. Don’t quiet the mind. Fill it with chaos.

I’m officially debunking the approach of finding a quiet, serene place to work. Save that for your diary entry. Instead, wrap your brain around the problem you are trying to solve, and then consume as much visual media as possible! Thumb through magazines. Take a jog through a crowded plaza. The stimulus is good, chaotic thinking. Trust me.

3. Step away from the computer. Now.

If you’re staring at a blinking cursor, you’re already limiting yourself. Grab an unlined sheet of paper and jot down everything from your creative session. With handwritten notes and doodles in front of you, you’ll connect potentially related concepts that might otherwise remain several scrolls away from each other.

4. Switch to a different industry.

This is a favorite exercise of mine. Pretend the problem you’re trying to solve pertains to a completely different industry, but yet still somehow connects with your target demographic. Recently, I used Saturday morning cartoons and the cereal industry as a leaping-off point to name a cookie dough company. To brand a marijuana dispensary, I sought inspiration from the outdoor adventure gear industry. This is a great way to stand out from cliché, industry-specific language and visuals.

5. Create mood boards and add to them weekly.

You’ll need a wall or board, a printer, tape, and some magazines. Clip and pin photos of real people as an ongoing reminder of who you’re targeting with your brand. Also, think about it as a fictional, pop culture character –– who would it be? Consider that character’s voice, style, attitude and vibe, and clip and pin with abandon. Also, make a separate “no-no” board using those obvious ideas you already outlined. Add to these lists weekly, and you’ll keep your brand and creative process on track (Just make sure you have a big wall!).


Ty James Largo is CEO of the award-winning creative agency, AWE Collective, and the host and speaker for SRSLY NOW, a provocative, entertaining and definitive online channel offering a modern approach to the impossibly fast-paced universe of marketing. Get dates for the SRSLY NOW Experience tour plus watch free creative marketing videos at