Let’s say you want a thing to occur in the world. The thing could be more people buying a product. Or fewer people believing a policy means something it doesn’t. Maybe you want specific employees to behave a specific way. Or you want loyal customers to remain loyal despite a potent allure to do otherwise. You want some change to happen, or not happen — and it begs the question, what’s the infrastructure behind [making things occur]?

If you’re a CEO or magically in full control of an organization then you can try and manifest whatever you want with edicts…


Every idea has a birth.

Before one arrives on the back of a cocktail napkin, or is blurted out to a fellow conspirator; before the lightbulb lights — there’s only fertility. Consider the moment just before Evan Spiegel conceived of Snapchat or the Coen Brothers began writing Barton Fink or you jot down a career-defining notion.

Nothing existed.

And then something did.

An idea arrived. How?

We visited the Fog, the “where” of idea-making, last time. The Fog is the chaotic laboratory, the endless factory floor, the cluttered studio, the context in which Idea People labor and ideas become manifest…


“This is the fear that all creatives know. Of being able to come up with something brilliant, on command, again and again, for your whole life.”

– Rick Webb (Agency)

It was the holidays, maybe 20 years ago and my extended family was gathered at a relative’s house to celebrate. At this point, I was a few years into what would be an eight year tenure as a copywriter then creative director on the Volkswagen “Drivers wanted” campaign. Our brand was riding high, celebrated for a consistent string of memorable ideas. (And let’s be clear — the brand-side and agency-side…


There’s a theory of being “cursed with (too much) knowledge.”

We walk into work most days expecting (or suspecting we are expected) to know. To know how; to know when; and most important — to know why. We are, after all, being paid. And in the vast majority of scenarios this makes all the sense in the world, and pays dividends. Our eduction, our experiences come forth and we deliver the goods. Our math adds up. Our wisdom saves the day.

Until it doesn’t.

We are cursed when the new math confounds our established order (witness decentralized/crypto finance). When the…


Credit where credit is due: Martin Weigel, Head of Planning at Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam, tweeted the following image and noted, “The CIA’s’ Simple Sabotage Field Manual’ (1944) contains some great advice for derailing organisations. Good to see so many of us putting it into daily practice.”

Take a look, then lets parse it a bit further.

The image is from page 28 of a document declassified in 2008 from the CIA’s website. (Here’s the complete PDF.) And, yes—the CIA didn’t technically exist as the CIA in 1944 when William J. Donovan was Director of the Office of Strategic Services and the…


Photo credit: ICF Olson

Advertising is a bet on the future of a brand. Advertisers invest without a guaranteed outcome. But having Jeff Kling lead the creation of your ads has proven a wise choice for Nike, Miller High Life, Dos Equis, Arby’s and Loctite.

How does that kind of success happen? On Wednesday, June 20 I sat across from Kling to kick off the tenth year of Conversations About The Future Of Advertising (CATFOA), to find out.

Long story short, the future of a brand boils down to culture and confidence.

As Ira Glass once put it:

“Everything wants to be mediocre, so…


Rory Sutherland

“Fame has a value in multiple dimensions.”

Years ago someone gave me a video of Rory Sutherland addressing the troops at Ogilvy New York—a true Englishman in New York moment, with the ascot and accent attending to the masses. This video was shot well before Rory’s celebrated TED Talk—in it, I saw Sutherland explore early themes and ideas he would continue to illuminate to great fanfare. I must have watched this a dozen times. …


A relief of Trimurti on a dome at Sri Mukhalingam temple by Adityamadhav83 (CC) — link

In the Vedic philosophy, all things encompass Trimurti (“three forms”)—Creation, Maintenance, and Destruction. Even the advertising agency is not immune. But that kind of calm acceptance doesn’t solicit clicks as well as It’s the End of Agencies As We Know It. Rei Inamoto’s recent thesis in Adweek is correct, despite the hyperbolic headline. It is, 20 or so years into the commercial Internet, time for ad agencies to end as we know them to be.

Before we move much further, let’s note that Inamoto isn’t denouncing ideas at all, or idea people or the value of ideas (and thus the…


Image by markchadwickart via Flickr (Creative Commons)

The past ~20 years have documented a war about ideas, defined in short: What Are Ideas and Who’s in Control of Defining and Making Them?

While it may be, as Bob Hoffman labels it, “the tiredest, most wearisome cliché in advertising,” the decades-old “push-pull between technology and creativity” speaks to some deeper truths about what it is to be an Ideas Person.

On January 15 Wieden+Kennedy Amsterdam’s Head of Planning, Martin Weigel, posted 80 Theses on the query “Is advertising radical enough?” under the title The Case for Chaos. Weigel’s glorious rant has a lot more to do with deeper issues, namely the challenge of creativity itself within the nature of corporations (slides/points 11–15, for example).

But Weigel’s Theses definitely speak to the push-pull between…


They just pop into your head.

At least, that’s how ideas are supposed to happen. This simplicity — anyone can do it, just think! — is a potent misdirect, one Idea Makers have borne forever. The reality is, there is structure, habit and process behind every idea, even those that came to fruition in the blink of an eye.

2018 marks the beginning of my second decade writing about ideas, idea people and the business of ideas as holistically as possible. Seems like a good a point as any to look backward for relevant context.

Let’s return to the Holy…

Tim Brunelle

I'm a creative enterprise leader, teacher, and entrepreneur living in Minneapolis.

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