Okay. Let's review a few of the ways we've discussed to come up with ideas.
Start by listing 20 product benefits to your product. If you were doing an ad for a new Sprint phone, you could begin with, "Let's me play mp3s...Let's me record my own voice...Looks cool...Has cool games I can play while I'm waiting in line at the DMV..." I'd make a list of at least 20, because, as you can seen, the first few you come up with may not always be the absolute best benefits. Once you've got your list, do 2 or 3 ads for each benefit. See which area is the most fertile. Then do some more ads in those areas.
Take 15 minutes and list as many descriptions of your product as you can. If you're assignment is Legos, you first few descriptions may be simple adjectives like "fun...colorful...blocky...stackable..." Don't think too much about it. Just write and write and write. Keep your hand moving. After several minutes you'll discover that your descriptions become a little more detailed. You might write something like "the antidote to video games...building blocks for my child's mind...infinite possibilities...my own imagination, not someone else's..." Those richer descriptions are going to lead you to some interesting areas. Do ads of them.
WHAT I MEAN BY THIS IS...
Sometimes, you'll have an idea that you love and no one else understands. If you really have heart for it, if you really believe there's something there, it may be you're just not being clear. Take that ad off the wall, and on the back write, "What I mean by this ad is..." Write until you've filled up the entire page. Don't stop to analyze what you're writing. Just write. Then go back and read what you wrote. There's a good chance, if your idea really is valid, you've figured it out within the first few lines. Revise your ad accordingly.
LETTER TO MOM
Advertising is about persuading. The best advertising persuades in surprising and interesting and beautiful ways. Start by writing a letter to your mom, or a sibling, or a best friend, or a teacher, or anyone relevant to the product, explaining to them why they should use whatever it is you're advertising. Make it personal. Don't advertise to them. Just talk to them. This helps you realize that you're talking to someone. You're communicating. Not just doing something you think might be cool. Write a 3-4 page letter. Then go back and read what you wrote. There are probably some interesting ideas in there.
PICK A VOICE
If your product were a celebrity, who would it be? Apple was right to choose Jeff Goldblum to do its advertising a few years ago. Lowe's doesn't do good advertising, but Gene Hackman as their voiceover makes perfect sense. Pick someone whose voice you know well. And try to do ads as if you were that person. Use their voice. Their attitude. Their style. (I shouldn't have to tell you I am in no way encouraging you to insert celebrities into your ads. Just the style of their voice. I would say you could write some decent Economist ads using Dennis Miller's voice, and never tell anyone who you're channeling.)
So. You've got 5 ways to begin any assignment you're given. I'll give you many more over the coming weeks. These are not magic formulas. They're not a step-by-step process to writing great ads. They're simply tools to use to keep you from staring at a blank piece of paper thinking, "What would be cool...?"
Remember, art is about putting something down. Not thinking something up. Write. Work. Keep your hand moving. If you get in a groove, never walk away from a hot sketchbook.