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How to Conduct A Creative Discovery Session for Your Next Ad Campaign

By Jenna Bruce on Mon, Aug 27, 2018 @ 10:00 AM |


Advertising mogul William Bernbach believed that advertising is persuasion, and that persuasion is not a science but an artform. Therefor, advertising is the art of persuasion.

Too many marketers focus on numbers and logistics but spend little time on the creative aspect of their campaign. And that’s a real shame, because it is ultimately your ad’s ability to emotionally move people that will get them to respond and eventually, convert.Creative team having brainstorming session in their office

At Media Space Solutions, we always walk our clients through a creative discovery session. This process allows us to deeply understand the brand, the goal, and the audience so that we may create campaigns with the highest chance of succeeding.

If you’ve never conducted a creative discovery session, here are some tips to get you started.

Be Prepared

There are some questions you should ask yourself before you begin brainstorming.

WHY – Why are you conducting this session? This is your intent. Are you refreshing old creatives? Rebranding? Focusing on one specific campaign channel? Sure it’s fun to lock yourselves in a conference room and order high-carb foods from Panera, but you’d better know your intentions before you go in there.

WHAT – The intent you come up with should dictate your goals. For instance, you may want to come up with one multi-channel creative concept, 10 new static image ideas, or two overall campaign concepts.  

You’ll also want to keep in mind WHAT constraints and/or parameters you need to keep in mind. The first is obviously budget, but you may also need to work within a certain framework based on mediums (video, image) or channels (Facebook, print ads). So for instance, you may ask yourself, “What is our budget and will it allow for original images to be shot on our behalf by a professional, or will we need to rely on stock images?

HOW – How long do you realistically have to spend on brainstorming? We typically spend anywhere from one to four hours with our clients. Be reasonable. Creative sessions are fun and you may want to spend days brainstorming, but don’t let other tasks fall by the wayside.

WHO – Who should participate in these sessions? It is always a good idea to invite people from different departments who can perhaps offer specific roles, expertise and perspectives of the company. Whoever you invite, make sure everyone is on the same page about the goals you are trying to achieve.

Once you have answered all of these questions you’re ready to begin brainstorming.

What is Your Value Proposition?

You may think you already know the answer to this question but take a few moments to be certain. What is the real value of your product or service? What is the value of your brand? How does your brand make you audience feel? How are you better than the competition? Be specific.

You shouldn’t spend much time on this but think of it more as a refresher course. Plus, some of the people on your team may have new insights that haven’t been thought of in the past.


Take whatever value proposition you have and reduce it down to a single sentence. This may be the hardest part of your entire session, but it will be incredibly rewarding if you complete the task. Because this one summation will drive the rest of your discussion. You and the rest of the team will find yourselves referring back to this sentence often, so do your best to get it right.

Get Visual

Once you have your value proposition summarized, it’s time to start thinking about how you can best visually communicate your value in line with your goals. You may want to focus on static images, slideshows, GIFs or videos.

Here are some fun ideas of how you can go about brainstorming:

1) Look through some of your top performing ads from the past. What insights can you glean and apply to the current session? Beyond looking at the creatives that performed the best, pay attention to what worked in different audience demographics and bottom-of-the-funnel metrics.

2) Get inspired by other brands. What magazine ads have you seen that you responded to? What Facebook ads performed the best over the past year for your competition? What billboards resonate with you? Have everyone on your creative team bring in ads that excite them.

3) look to reviews. While you may not have the time to ask all of your end users their opinion of your brand and offerings, you can certainly find numerous reviews online. Listening to your customers’ first-hand experience of your brand can often spark a great idea for imagery.


Most people find the freedom of brainstorming fun. Then comes the hard part – choosing which creative path to take. Riffing off ideas was easy, now you are facing a “Sophie’s Choice” type of scenario. Which ad concept will live and which will die, or at least be saved for later consideration?

Be sure you’ve allowed enough time to have the entire group weigh in at the end of the session. Which ideas excited people the most? Take a vote and boil it down to the top 3 ideas.

Now, of those three, which one is most in line with your goals and fits into your constraints and parameters? Which is the most feasible? Remember, you can always stick a pin in the ideas that are good but could use some tweaking. Right now your task is to choose the one that is “doable” and gets everyone excited.

Moving Forward

Now that you have your creative concept, it’s time to delegate tasks, set deliverables and deadlines. Regardless of an individual’s depth of involvement with the campaign, make sure to follow up with everyone. Give encouragement throughout the development process. The more engaged everyone is the better.

Final Thoughts

Just as advertising is an art, creative brainstorming is also an art. The trick is to balance freedom of imagination with practicality of budget and other constraints. If you prepare your team beforehand, set goals and intentions, redefine your value proposition, and aren’t afraid to borrow inspiration from other brands, you stand an excellent chance of creating an ad campaign that delivers.


Need some help with your creatives? From concept to market, we can help you with every stage of the creative process. Call or email us today and let’s get started.

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