The blissful process to generate great ideas for your social media ads

You’ve set out to invest in social media ads and you want the money you’ve put in to come back in spades.

For that, you should create a campaign and filter the audience so your ads reach the right buyer persona and give you better results.

But I’m not going to talk about strategy here, but about copywriting and how to generate great ideas so your ads stand out and move people to click.

If your ad goes unnoticed, doesn’t engage, doesn’t bring anything new and doesn’t encourage people to click on the link, no matter how spot-on is your strategy, you aren’t going to get the results you want.

In this copywriting lesson, you’ll learn several techniques to generate ideas that will help you create original, fun, exciting and clickable ads.

We’re going to see how to decide which image or video best expresses that idea, and which copy will make the whole thing make sense.

Because the image is as important as the copy that accompanies it. One without the other won’t work.

I’m not going to fool you, it’s not easy to stand out, there’s already too much of everything and people are tired of ads.

Every ad that appears on a feed feels like an interruption, so, as Bob Thacker says: “If you’re going to crash the party, at least bring champagne”.

If you’re going to interrupt, make it worthwhile.

Many of the techniques you’ll learn in this lesson are taken from the book A Self-Help Guide For Copywriters” by Dan Nelken I strongly recommend you to read.

We’re going to talk about how to entertain and make people smile with an ad, but also how to make an ad effective.

Because you should never lose sight of the ultimate goal of an ad, which is simply to SELL. And let’s be clear, if your ad is cringeworthy or goes unnoticed, there will be no sale.

Let’s start!

Free Copywriting Guide

What makes an idea stick?

The ideas that catch our attention are those that break predetermined patterns and are easy to get and memorise.

In the book Made to Stick, the Heath brothers decode the formula for a brilliant and catchy idea. These are the ingredients:

  • Simple – goes to the essential and universal
  • Unexpected – captures people’s attention by breaking predetermined patterns
  • Concrete – the idea is specific, 0 generalities
  • Credible – it isn’t too fantastic, it seems real
  • Emotional – touches an emotion
  • Story – any concept is best understood through a story

The majority of great ads have most, if not all, of these ingredients.

Pay special attention to the first ingredient of the formula, it has to be simple. But don’t confuse simplicity with something vapid or silly.

Good ideas have been carefully thought through. If an idea is simple, it means that you first had to go to the core of the concept in order to get the essential and universal out of it.

And to get the gist of it you have to go to the heart of the matter.

For example, imagine you sell an accounting software. One of the features is that it sends alerts when invoices are about to reach their due date.

What’s at the heart of the matter here?

That you won’t pay penalties for delays (this is the benefit).

You can start with this idea and add the other ingredients to transform it into a great idea.

Now think, how to make this idea more unexpected? This idea is quite obvious and doesn’t break any predetermined patterns.

What if the first thing we see is a picture of someone with a bump on their forehead? The image generates curiosity as to how they got it:

The copy would be:

“Jimmy gets a bump on his forehead at the end of each month.

He can’t help but bang his head against the wall every time he misses a due date.

Never pay penalties again. Download the HappyAccounting App”.

It’s an unexpected idea because you don’t know what the ad is about and you’re curious to know why Jimmy gets a bump so often.

It’s concrete, it refers to a specific and universal act of banging one’s head against the wall.

It’s credible, it’s something that has happened to everyone at some time.

It appeals to an emotion, the fact that you feel like an idiot every time you miss a due date and have to pay a penalty.

It tells a story, the story of Jimmy missing a due date

The blissful process to generate great ideas for your #socialmedia #ads. #copywriting #SmallBiz #Marketing Share on X

This idea is something I came up with on the fly and I would certainly not present it to a client like this. I’d first have gone through the process of coming up with several original ideas until I decided which one was the best.

Let’s see how to generate lots of ideas and come up with the winning one.

Freelance Copywriter

The process of creating lots of good ideas

Dan Nelken in his book calls this process filling buckets.

It consists of thinking of a benefit of the product or service you want to sell and creating several buckets with other benefits derived from that main benefit.

Let’s look at this with the example of the previous section, the accounting software.

“It sends you alerts when payments are due”.

We’ll create several buckets with benefits derived from that benefit.

“You won’t pay penalties”.

“You’ll have more money to invest in your business”.

“You’ll be able to concentrate on new ideas for your business to earn more income”.

“You won’t damage the relationship with your suppliers”.

“You can utilise your memory for other things like remembering your husband’s birthday”

Keep adding ideas to this bucket until you have 10 or 20, the more the better.

What we’re really doing here is filling this bucket with benefits, features, truths and facts that serve to draw out ideas we’ll use later in our ad.

The next step is to fill each of these “ideas-buckets” with 5 or 6 new ideas to get “the benefit of the benefit, ” which we use a lot in copywriting.

Ask yourself often: “what’s the benefit of the benefit? “

In the previous example, I’ve added “you won’t damage your relationship with your suppliers” the benefit of that benefit could be that you will be able to negotiate better prices.

I’ve filled this bucket with fairly “common” and expected ideas, but if you want your ad to be fun or unexpected or both, you have to think outside the box.

And how do you get out of the ordinary?

Now comes the fun part.

How to come up with unusual ideas your competition will wish they thought about them first

The previous process is necessary and will give you good ideas for your ads, but it may not help you generate those original ideas your competition hasn’t come up with first.

To generate more unusual ideas you should ask yourself different questions. You know the old saying:

“To get to different solutions you have to ask different questions”.

This part of the process is where you can play around and get a bit crazy. It doesn’t matter if the ideas seem rubbish to you, the important thing is to write them all down and get on with it. Bad ideas lead to good ideas, but you have to go through the whole process.

To generate new and unusual ideas, you should create other buckets with answers to questions like, What would life be like without your product? Or with too much of it?

Exaggerate life with and without it and go to extremes to explore unexpected dimensions. An example of this would be the bump on the front, we’re exaggerating what life would be like without the product.

This billboard is an excellent example of exaggeration done well:

Another trick to get more original ideas is the so-called 180-degree thinking. This method consists of directing your mind to the opposite end of the spectrum from where you would naturally go.

The blissful process to generate great ideas for your #socialmedia #ads. #copywriting #SmallBiz #Marketing Share on X

Let’s look at this with the example of the accounting software. One way to go to the other extreme of the product or the benefits it offers would be to think of doing the accounting manually, for example with an abacus.

We could see a man dressed as an ancient Roman using an abacus and a headline that reads:

“Your accounting made easy, fast and without having to dust it”.

(It’s not brilliant, but it’s what I came up with on the fly without filling the buckets. If I had filled them, this headline would be much better.)

How to get out of a creative rut

Coming up with new ideas isn’t always easy. There are times when you feel uninspired and nothing comes up to your mind.

And you start panicking because the deadline is immovable and fast approaching.

In these moments you need to sit your bum on the chair and do the following exercises that will help you unblock the creative part of your brain and make it want to collaborate.

One is to set yourself a challenge. Set yourself a time limit of 15 minutes in which you have to write down 20 or 30 ideas.

No one is looking, people won’t even see them, it doesn’t matter if they are crap, the important thing is that you write down 20 or 30 ideas in those 15 minutes.

Thinking at that speed will help you silence your inner critic who paralyses you by trying to sink your self-esteem and telling you how much you suck.

Since you have to think very fast, you won’t give him time to bother you.

Another way to unlock your creativity is to set yourself other types of challenges such as limiting yourself to 3-word sentences or finding an analogy for that product and writing 10 sentences starting with “It’s like…”.

“This software is like having an accountant but without paying her annual leave.”

Something that can also help you activate the creative part of your brain is to use pen and paper and to draw even if you aren’t great at it.

Remember, no one will see it, it’s just for you until you find that Big Idea that will be the one you present to your client.

Other ways to unlock creative thinking:

  • Imagine you are addressing 6-year-olds.
  • Think of a character or celebrity and try to write as if he or she were speaking (one often used is Master Yoda and his peculiar way of speaking, but it could be Boris Johnson or Antonio Banderas).
  • Write sentences as if they were book or film titles (The software that came from the future to save your business).
  • Write a page telling a story about your product and start with “Once upon a time…”.

And above all, don’t judge yourself, take it as if you are just playing and trying it out, so your inner critic will be less likely to ruin your morning.

And when he does, tell him, don’t worry, I’m not going to show it to anyone, it’s just for me and he’ll leave you alone (just for a little while, because the bastard always comes back).

The blissful process to generate great ideas for your #socialmedia #ads. #copywriting #SmallBiz #Marketing Share on X

To sum up

We often think we aren’t creative because we push ourselves to write something GREAT on the first try and that’s impossible.

All the great ideas you see out there are the result of a lot of discarded copy and crumpled pieces of paper thrown away (metaphorically, thank goodness we don’t waste so much paper anymore).

Everyone can come up with good ideas if they put their mind to it. Some people may find it less difficult than others, but if you put your mind to it and you allow yourself to play with all the possibilities, I’m sure you too can get there in time.

It’s all about showing up and silencing your inner critic in every possible way in order to let you think clearly.

Go and get those great ideas!

The blissful process to generate great ideas for your #socialmedia #ads. #copywriting #SmallBiz #Marketing Share on X

Sobre Elena de Francisco

Siento un placer inmensurable aplastando textos zombis que no dan resultados y transformándolos en textos llenos de vida que provocan muchas ventas.

About Elena de Francisco

I find real pleasure in crushing zombie copy that doesn’t provoke any emotion and turning it into vivid words that convert prospects into smiley paying customers.


  1. Morris

    This was an eye opener!

    • Elena de Francisco

      Happy to know my article helped!

      See you around!


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