Goos Geursen, a seasoned creative in ’the field’ and author of the standard work “Emotions & Advertising” published in 1989, recently added a new title to his name. “A Greyhound in Sneakers,” referring to the iconic Reebok advertisement from the late 1980s, with the subtitle “Concept Development in Advertising.” The booklet aims to shed light on the creative processes within an advertising agency. Through numerous advertisements from both domestic and international sources and dozens of quotes from creators within and outside the advertising industry, Geursen attempts to lend a helping hand to young creative minds. However, even seasoned commercial artists can benefit from it. “What can we improve?” It even seems that beneath these practical objectives lies a third ideal, namely to encourage the (advertising) world to engage in right-brain thinking rather than left-brain thinking.

Part 1, “What is a Concept?” of the richly illustrated booklet – in full color – may come across as somewhat condescending to some. The basic principles of the creative side of advertising thinking are reiterated in a loud and clear manner. It is handy and interesting for newcomers and provides supportive and enjoyable reading for those who are already familiar. However, in Chapter 4, “The Functioning of the Concept,” Geursen puts forward several interesting proposals for everyone. Regarding the observer’s involvement, he outlines four steps that can evoke different responses: aesthetic value, possibilities for identification, gaps in the expression, and clashes with the recipient’s mental baggage. The passages on contrast and conflict (within characters, time, and copy in relation to visuals) and those on rhetoric are particularly enlightening. Geursen’s writing is clear, interspersed with numerous visual examples and a few graphs. In the margins, there is a collection of quotes he has compiled over the years from books, newspapers, TV interviews with writers, painters, filmmakers, musicians, and “artists” about their craft. These quotes enhance the reading experience and provide practical insights.

Part 2, “Concept Development in Advertising Practice,” is the most interesting section for those already working in the field. In addition to chapters on “The Role of Concept Development” and “The Concept in Other Forms of Communication,” Chapter 8, “Concept Development in Steps,” serves as a useful checklist for creatives. Even the more experienced creative directors may occasionally find it helpful and refer to it. Based on the five most essential points from the brief – what, who, why, for what purpose, and which – Geursen outlines the implementation of a concept in nine steps. All nine commandments by Geursen seem aimed at achieving the clearest possible re-briefing by and for the creative team. At first glance, it may seem obvious, but for those who read it, the numerous entry points, connections, deepening aspects, broadening perspectives, in short, the shortcuts he provides, are a welcome support. The briefing, or rather, the clear formulation of a briefing, is of great importance to him.

As Chapter 10 indicates, Geursen states that bad advertisements can be prevented in the most fundamental phase of the concept development process. While the earlier passages on this subject seem mainly focused on creatives, Chapter 10, “How can we improve the briefing,” appears to be directed specifically at account managers. He argues that a better understanding of each other’s way of thinking (creatives versus account managers and vice versa) can only improve our industry, a viewpoint that many managers would agree with. In an earlier chapter, Geursen attempts to resolve this dispute through a different approach, the anatomical approach. By providing a basic explanation of how our brain functions (in short: left for accounts and right for creativity), he asks all of us to come closer together and engage in “strategy” using our whole brain. It may sound somewhat pretentious, but it is certainly not an unnecessary remark. As an extra, he offers a practical example regarding the NCRV logo and “a limbering-up exercise: 201 ways to get an idea” by S. Baker. It remains difficult to comprehend how a creative process comes about. Goos Geursen makes a remarkable and commendable attempt.

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