Chapter 3

A Clean Sheet of Paper

Coming up with an idea—the broad strokes

BEFORE WE BEGIN, A QUICK NOTE. The first edition of this book came out in 1998—last century, basically. At the time, the possibilities of advertising online were just starting to be realized, and since then the number of other media used to deliver advertising has gone kaleidoscopic.

That said, to begin our discussion of advertising ideas we still have to start somewhere. And for the purposes of this book, we’ll make the humble print ad our starting point. No, it’s not interactive, and it doesn’t link to other print ads. You don’t have to go to L.A. to make a print ad, and it usually ends life under a puppy or a bird. But in its simple two dimensions and blank white space, it contains all the challenges we need to discuss the creative process. In the little white square we draw on our pads, we’ll learn design and art direction. We’ll hone our writing. We’ll learn how to be information architects—how to move a reader’s attention from A to B to C—and these basic skills will stay with us and prove critical as we move from print ads to tweets. As Pete Barry says, “Print is to [all of] advertising what figure drawing is to fine art; it provides a creative foundation.”1

We’ll be talking mostly about the crafts of copywriting and art direction, two disciplines that are infinitely portable. Everything you learn about writing and art direction here applies to pretty much any surface you’re working on, from bus sides ...

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