It was difficult for Steve Jobs’ wife to buy anything.

Mainly because of Steve Jobs.

For instance, she wanted a sofa for their house.

Steve Jobs said he needed a brief.

He didn’t put it into those terms of course.

He asked ‘why’ she needed a sofa.

Before she decided to buy a sofa, what was the problem she expected a sofa to solve?

First define the problem in thorough detail.

Then investigate the best solution to that problem.

The solution might not be a sofa.

But even if it was, in defining the problem they would learn a lot about the optimum design.

Defining the problem would throw up the solution.

Investigation leads to information: information leads to the solution.

It was the same when she wanted a washing machine.

Steve had to investigate every washing machine on the market.

Dimensions and appearance, washing efficiency, capacity, rotation speed, cycle length, water usage, soap powder usage, electricity usage, ecological implications.

For Steve Jobs, if you gather enough information it will eventually result in the right answer.

That’s how it is with truly creative people.

They don’t trust pre-packaged answers.

They need to go back and investigate the problem.

Lazy people don’t do that.

They expect someone else to give them the answer.

It’s less work, it saves them thinking.

Thinking is difficult, which is why people who demand thinking from other people are known as awkward.

And people who ask too many questions are known as difficult.

Tim Lindsay was the CEO of a lot of really good ad agencies: BBH, Y&R, Lowe, TBWA.

Tim told me the best planners were always copywriters.

Because they asked questions.

He said the best planner he’d ever worked with was Tony Brignul.

As a copywriter, Tony won more D&AD awards than anyone else.

Tim Lindsay said he was an example of how good copywriters worked.

Before he wrote a single word he investigated the product like Sherlock Holmes.

Because, like all good creative people, Tony knew the more information he had, the better the eventual answer would be.

That’s why Tony had a reputation for being awkward.

Because he asked a lot of questions.

He expected clients, account men, planners, to know the answers.

And if they didn’t, he expected them to find out.

But lazy people don’t want to do the work of finding things out.

They just want the creatives to make something up.

Which is why most advertising is just technique.

Lazy thinking needs to be overlaid with technique to disguise the lack of thinking.

The fashionable excuse is “All products are exactly like all other products, so the only difference is brand”.

This is another way of saying “We don’t want to find anything out so just make something up”.

Which is why all the advertising we see around is interchangeable.


Great ads aren’t always the result of making up answers.

Great ads are often the result of finding out answers.