Archive for the ‘brainstorming’ Category

how to give creative feedback

April 15, 2013

“Not only were all of your ideas lame, but you know I hate the color pink!”

So began role-playing for our creative feedback workshop. Yes, this was the “bad” example.

Food Network’s marketing team wanted to hone their communication skills. So there we were, two groups of thirty marketing and creative folks, crowded near the crackling fireplace at the Maritime Hotel, role playing, creative briefing, and — between laughs over lukewarm coffee and cold danish — applying a new process for creative feedback.


We call it CRAFT.

C   Criteria

R   respect

A   actionable

F   focus

T    truth + tact

As one person put it at the end of the day, “The team at Tooth and Nail brought together our creative and strategy teams.  Their leadership, encouragement and guidance provided us with the tools to continue to produce great creative work.”

Giving feedback is as much an art as writing and designing.

What’s your favorite feedback story?


Write with 3 Balls

June 28, 2010

This year the Promax/BDA conference in LA brought in great speakers from around the world and smashed last year’s attendance numbers. We felt honored to be included.

We had a blast presenting “Write with 3 Balls” to the audience of marketing executives, and they returned the feeling. Loved seeing that SRO crowd. As promised, here’s what we showed. Enjoy and please let us know what you think!

[The presentation is packed with good stuff and videos–please give it a few moments to load up.]

Promax Presentation

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a fitting experience

November 19, 2009

The movie Amelia starring Hillary Swank opened to mixed reviews this month. However, that didn’t stop the NYC discount retail chain Daffy’s from turning it into a hit.

Before the screening of the film at the Ziegfeld Theater in Midtown Manhattan, a music video became the genesis of an experiential ad for the retailer.

Dancers on the screen were upstaged by dancers on the stage as all the performers acted out how shoppers try on clothes in “Fitting Dance”.

Find your fans and create an experience that delights them. Zappos does it with customer service, Daffy surprised the Ziegfeld crowd and T-mobile rocked a crowded train station.

Ask yourself how your brand can bring joy to your customers, then ask your customers for their business.

We’d love to know what groups you’ve been thrilled with and why. Is there an agency, a freelancer or a consultant that over delivers and is rewarded with your loyalty?  Do tell.


the real work of brands

November 14, 2009


Tomorrow I lead 25 TV executives through an all-day brand workshop in Dubai  at the DMI studios.

We’ve never met, but already I know this: they’re managers, directors, art directors, and producers. They’re young, creative, opinionated, curious, and ambitious.They’ll be shy at first, and open up as the day goes on. We will laugh and disagree, we may have misunderstandings.

By the end of the day, they will amaze me.

We spend a lot of time preparing our workshops:  pulling examples, creating exercises, and laying out the concepts that make brands work.

But the miracle always happens in the team work. When the language of the day isn’t job titles or meetings. It’s ideas. When people jump in and try things out. When they don’t fear failure.

What will amaze me tomorrow? I can’t wait to find out.

What’s your best workshop experience?

uncorking ideas

October 15, 2009

It’s spring in Johannesburg and if that’s not enough to put a smile on my face, new friends and fantastic wine does.

Preparing another session of Write With Balls, this time for Promax/BDA Africa and I turn on the TV. What’s on in the southern hemisphere? Plenty of channels and a familiar line-up; Discovery, Nat Geo, Cartoon, and CNN. But I watch for the ads.

So, how does Coke talk to its customers? With music of course. There’s a detergent for doing laundry in a bucket vs a washing machine.

Plus ads for a very special kind of bra. Well, not exactly a bra — something you wear over a bra. These print ads show you what you need to know.



More from Jo-burg in a day or two. In the meantime do you ever turn the TV on when you travel, if so what do you like? I once saw a game show in Italy that was over the top. You?


creative soles

August 6, 2009

Ever had evil shoes? A pair that looked nice in the store but were serial killers on the street. No one thinks clearly with throbbing feet.


What’s the first thing you do when you come home? Me, I kick off my shoes. The universal signal that it’s time to relax. And relaxing is critical to writing.

From Manhattan to Malaysia we kick off our workshops by kicking off our shoes and donning a new pair of socks.

In school, when they wanted you to be a good little soldier  (the opposite of creative if you ask me), you were asked to “put on your thinking caps”. That imaginary chapeau morphed a room of screaming me-me’s into obedient puppies.

Creativity demands the opposite of obedience. For us, socks signal the time to be rowdy, let your guard down, and pick up your pen.

green lace up socks

After decades of hunting down creativity, we have found it indeed comes from the sole.

Of your feet.

reverse the suck

June 26, 2009

“I try to think of things that suck.” That’s what inventor David Levy says—he helped to create the PowerBook. In other words, confront the problem—that which sucks—head on. Then use it for the basis of your solution.


When Henry Ford went into the car business, the typical factory floor was peppered with workstations and folks mulling around. Toes were stepped on, coffee spilt, and time wasted. So Henry, efficient man that he was, thought to bring the work to the people. He invented the assembly line and carpel tunnel.


Even the Middle Ages had it’s share of “aha” moments. During the Black Plague, it wasn’t always easy to tell who was holding on to dear life and who was actually dead. Huge issue here when folks started being buried alive. So, one clever soul stood up and said “Hey, let’s make sure people are dead before we bury them!”  A cheer rose from the crowd and they began systematically driving stakes through the coffins. From that day forward, no one was buried alive. 


So, what’s the worst thing you’re dealing with right now? Turn it around, stick a stake through it, and be willing to look at it in an entirely new way. It works, cross my beating heart.

soft landings

June 3, 2009

Anything new takes guts and a soft landing. 


When I was nine, my brother and I pooled our money to buy a unicycle.  It arrived with no instructions–just a banana seat, a wheel, and two pedals. 

“You first,” said my older, street smart brother. 

I planted my right foot on the pedal, pushed up, and–in a graceful loop–arced over the wheel. The unicycle squirted out the other direction. I splatted onto the pavement, face first. 

My shins still have those scars.


Now, maybe for you, a blank sheet of paper is scarier than a unicycle. But I guarantee you’ll never skin your knees writing. 

Here’s what you don’t do: sit down at the computer, format your page, and try to reel off that perfect first draft. Way too risky. That’s like learning to ride a unicycle on a high wire. 

Write where you’ve got a soft landing and no one’s watching you. Start a slop page.  


On a slop page you’re allowed to put anything down at all. Terrible ideas, half thoughts, bad words. 

Why do we call it a slop page? Because slop is messy and soft. You can try things out with no risk at all. Try out sentences. Ride ideas around. No risks, no scrapes. That’s the safety of a slop page. And step one for good writing.

mumbai bound

May 26, 2009


Flying London to Mumbai on Jet Airways – can you get more generic than that? I keep thinking they missed a word here. Jet India Airway perhaps?

Close to landing the flight attendants come out en masse and spray sanitizer up and down the aisles and in the air. Is there a reason they couldn’t wait til we landed and left the plane? I have a personal policy to avoid direct contact with room deodorizer. Isn’t that stuff bad for you?  I am sure there is a caution on the side of the can about spraying on passengers.  The spraying came after our really cool breakfast of spinach and channa dal– small vegetarian patties filled with chiles and mints. Captain Crunch step aside



We are on our way to Mumbai to conduct a creativity and writing workshop for Promax/BDA India. We like to customize our workshops, but it’s particularly challenging half way around the world in a country we’ve only visited in the movies. 

Hungry to glean anything we can–even from small differences aboard the flight.  I watched a Bollywood movie called “Hello” about six workers at a call center, all going through personal crisis–adultery, depression, and estrangement–punctuated by pelvic-thrusting dances. I find this an appealing combination and am relieved to know that crisis and pelvic thrusting is universal. Marilyn sleeps through the action.

While the rules of creativity are  consistent  the world over, cultural differences do matter we have 48 hours to figure out what they are.

Up for 20 hours straight most of it evening. Approaching  Mumbai and lights curve like a jewled necklace along the coastline. Reminds me of the flat, sprawling city of another tropical center, Miami.

Lots to share, lots to learn. Who has the converter and how do we access the internet?