Creative Aerobics: Fueling Imagination in the 21st Century


Linda Conway Correll George & Arpan Yagnik

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    This book is dedicated to my mentor Tony Isidore, Copywriter/ Copy Supervisor/Copy Chief at Young & Rubicam Advertising (Y&R) in New York City when I was a Time Records Clerk there. Tony gave me two advertising assignments: a Goodyear Tires print ad and a jingle to introduce Beech-Nut Fruit Stripe Gum. With his help, I was promoted to Copywriter in less than a year.

    Tony's work is widely known in the United States. He wrote the ‘Give a Damn’ political campaign for the New York Urban Coalition that put John Lindsay in City Hall. In 1971, he left Y&R to form his own agency, Isidore Lefkowitz Elgort. Isidore & Paulson, The Larosa Isidore Group, and the Isidore Group followed. Tony is retired, but I'm sure he is still mentoring.

    Linda Conway Correll George

    My work in this book is dedicated to Better Questions!

    Dr Arpan Yagnik


    The summer after my first year of teaching in the Advertising Department of the University of Florida, I had the opportunity to return to my first love, chronologically—the creative department of a multinational advertising agency located in Houston, Texas.

    My time there was both an eye-opener and a mind-bender!

    When I started in advertising in New York City years ago, television commercial ideas were hand-drawn by a bullpen of artists who did nothing but sketch storyboards—a series of illustrations that indicated the sequential action of the idea being presented, with the advertised product being introduced where appropriate. This could take a couple of days, or up to a week, depending on how busy the bullpen was. And it was always a rough approximation of what the commercial would actually look like.

    Now, 21st-century television commercial concepts were being constructed, often the same day, for internal presentation, from existing footage found on the Internet, in news clips, on YouTube, and/or from films. And they looked like finished commercials!

    Print ads were also the provenance of the art director now, not the bullpen, who, using digital programs like Illustrator and Photoshop, could create a ready-for-presentation ad in the matter of an hour or two.

    Obviously, advertising's timetable had sped up considerably. It was on the express track, not the local. And it made me feel all the more certain that there is an increasing need today for a creative process that can keep pace. I think it's Creative Aerobics (CA), an ideation process I developed for my university students to make coming up with ideas faster, less stressful, and more fun.

    Maybe you're ready to make a leap of faith and adopt the four exercises of CA that this book will teach you as your new ideation mantra. Or maybe you need to learn more about the process before you decide.

    I've been presenting CA internationally, since 2003. Let me tell you how college academics and business professionals worldwide have responded to it. CA has been accepted for presentation on four continents, in juried international conferences at Monash University, Prato, Italy; Cambridge University, Cambridge, England, the United Kingdom; Carthage University, Tunis, Tunisia; American University, Paris, France; the First AIMS International Conference, Bangalore, India; the Fourth International Conference on Interdisciplinary Social Sciences, Athens, Greece; and the Eighth Annual Hawaii International Conference on Social Sciences, Honolulu. Also, it has been taught at universities and practiced internationally in India (Mumbai, Kolkata, Ahmedabad, New Delhi, Pune, etc.), Singapore, and the Emirates (Dubai).

    Are you wondering what ‘juried’ means? To gain acceptance at conferences, the author and/or presenter has to write a short synopsis of the topic to be presented—CA, in this case. The synopsis, called an abstract, is submitted to scholarly organizations within a specific field—advertising, sociology, the humanities, for instance—that hold annual meetings where new ideas are introduced and shared with colleagues. If the evaluators of the abstracts deem the topics innovative and relevant, they are accepted. My CA abstracts have been accepted for presentation each time they've been submitted.

    Often, after my presentations, invitations from international institutes of learning have followed: I presented CA at a lecture in the Distinguished Lecturer on Creativity Series at the National Institute of Design, Ahmedabad, India, the country's leading design institute. I made invited presentations at ICFAI Business School, Ahmedabad, India; at Osmania University, Hyderabad, India; Nirma University, Ahmedabad, India; Gujarat University, Ahmedabad, India; and Mumbai Educational Trust (MET) League of Colleges in Mumbai, India.

    Not all my presentations on CA have been scholarly. In fact, many of the international presentations have occurred through invitations from business professionals, including advertising clubs, advertising agencies, chambers of commerce, designers of distance learning, software companies, and venture capitalists. They're all looking for ways to improve their creativity.

    In the United States, I've presented CA at juried conferences that include the American Academy of Advertising Conference in St. Louis, Missouri; the Association of Educators in Journalism and Mass Communications Conferences in Washington DC, Miami Florida, and Boston Massachusetts; the National College Media Conference in St. Louis, Missouri; and the Broadcast Educators Association Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada.

    But I've also been invited to present it to seven American Advertising Federations (AAF) in the 4th District (Florida and the Caribbean), including St. Thomas and St. Croix in the Virgin Islands. Also on the list are the Creative Club of San Antonio, Texas; the Houston, Texas office of Bates Advertising International; a Microsoft partner in Silicon Valley, California; a phone conglomerate in New England; and the New England Press Association in Boston, Massachusetts.

    In addition, I've taught CA at universities in Massachusetts, Missouri, Texas, Florida, Illinois, and Rhode Island, and at the leading graduate institute of communications 7,000 miles away in India: Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (MICA).

    That's all well and good. But why have I gone into such detail about the acceptance of an ideation system you've probably never even heard of? For one important reason: CA is so different from the way most people access their creativity that you may be reluctant to try it. After all, how would you know that the process called CA will work for you?

    Maybe this will give you some more brainfood for thought: I asked a well-respected colleague who has seen CA in presentations and in classrooms to give me her honest opinion about it, and this is what she said:

    I frequently asked Linda to lead creative sessions for my Copywriting and Advanced Creative Labs. Her methods of conceptualizing ideas produced amazing results from those who didn't consider themselves creative—as well as those who did. (Elaine L. Wagner, Professor Emerita, Advertising Department, College of Journalism and Communications, University of Florida)

    Sitting in a classroom with a professor to explain things you don't understand, however, is very different from picking up this book and reading it by yourself. Of course, it would help to talk to my former students. Unfortunately, they're spread out all around the world, so it's somewhat difficult to locate them.

    Here's something, though, that might relieve any doubts you may still have: they ‘got’ it (understood CA). How do I know this? Well, they captured more than 200 local, regional, national, and international advertising awards for their creativity, using CA: in the Creativity 39 International Student Awards; the Eighteenth Annual Summit International Creative Student Awards; the International Student Competition; the National Broadcast Competition Student Awards; the Missouri Broadcast Educators Association student competitions; and the American Advertising Federation's national, district, and local ADDY student competitions, the largest advertising competition in the United States.

    Maybe you'd like to know more about my students. Many are American. They took classes with me at the University of North Texas; in Rhode Island School of Design's Certificate Program; at Northeastern University, Boston; Southeast Missouri State University; the University of Florida; and Southern Illinois University, Carbondale. But nearly one-third of them learned CA at MICA. And they have gone on to become successful writers, art directors, and creative directors globally, and at advertising agencies throughout India. You'll meet three of them in Chapter 18.

    From the start, I felt there was a need to find out whether CA was cross-cultural, or whether its use was limited to just the United States and to American culture. So I took it to a country with a very different culture but one that did business in English. Needless to say, when my MICA students received more than forty advertising awards from the listed student competitions, including Best of Show, my question was answered. In fact, the Director of the Crafting Creative Communications Programme at MICA made CA a required course. And for seven summers, I spent June and July in Ahmedabad, teaching it.

    More recently, Dr Arpan Yagnik, my former student and now a coauthor of this book, introduced CA on the TEDx stage of The Pennsylvania State University, in Erie, where he is an Assistant Professor of advertising. Currently, he is teaching CA there in one of his advertising courses.

    What are the specifics about CA that are likely to be important to you? You'll discover them in Chapter 1, which follows this Preface. And that should greatly increase your comfort level.

    Arpan and I invite you on this journey. Happy reading and happy creating!


    To the Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad (MICA) community who embraced Creative Aerobics (CA) when I taught there, and to those who contributed their insights when I asked for their thoughts: Sushil Bahl, a veteran advertising professional and academic who made my first article published in India, coauthored with him, a reality; Subhash Tendle, an advertising creative director-turned-Crafting-Creative-Communications-director who shared seven batches of his students with me and then let me share my students in southern Illinois with him; and Prasad Venkatraman, Elrid Carvalho, and Broty Ganguly, former students, now Indian advertising and communications superstars in their own rights. My deep appreciation to you all.

    To the late Atul Tandan, then Director of MICA, who hired me and encouraged me to teach the discipline of CA to students, with award-winning results. May you rest in peace for centuries, Atul.

    To my American and Indian students who worked so hard and so successfully to create the advertisements illustrated in this book. Thank you for letting me share them.

    To Barbara Schweitzer who gave me the courage to see CA for what it is and can be. ‘Thank you’ is hardly sufficient.

    To Dr John Sutherland, Head of the Advertising Department in the College of Journalism and Communications at the University of Florida, when I taught there, who recognized the value of CA in teaching students to write award-winning advertising. Much appreciated, John.

    To Chapal Mehra, the editor of my first book, published by the Response Division of SAGE, who took a chance on the viability of CA. It worked!

    To Manisha Mathews, the editor of this book, who has worked night, day, and on her own time to bring the subject to the world's attention. I'm so appreciative!

    To Dr Arpan Yagnik, my coauthor and former student at MICA. Neither of us knew then that he'd be getting his PhD in the United States; that he'd be teaching/presenting CA at Penn State; and that we'd be writing this book together!

    To my beloved daughter Shannon Conway Keith who has been there from the beginning, visiting my classes as a child; bracing me up when her loving stepfather Steve Correll died unexpectedly, and I turned to writing my first book to fill the huge void; and transitioning into her current role of a dear friend, a traveling companion, and a computer tech advisor. Hang in there, Shannie. There's one more to go.

    Last but by no means least, to my husband of nearly six years, J.C. George. For years, he has been asking me to write a book about my life experiences, and I told him I had to finish this book first. It's done, J.C., and my next book's for you!

    Linda Conway Correll George

    First and foremost to Linda Ma'am for not giving up on me after the first day of the CA class, encouraging and supporting me in getting admitted to a doctoral program, and lastly for entrusting me with this invaluable honor and learning opportunity of sharing CA with the world.

    Second, to all my teachers and mentors who played a vital role in empowering me with the abilities to express and contribute to society and to knowledge. I would like to especially mention Dr Srinivas Melkote, Dr Ashutosh Patel, and the late Zahida Chowdhary.

    Third, my sisters for their continued selfless love and affection for me, which is something I consider myself extremely privileged to be a recipient of.

    And last, to Manisha for being supportive, responsive, and prompt throughout this process.

    Dr Arpan Yagnik

  • About the Authors

    Linda Conway Correll George, upon graduation from college, set out for New York City, where she hoped her dream of writing music for Broadway shows would become a reality. Instead, her first musical success was the jingle she wrote to introduce Beech-Nut Fruit Stripe Gum on her day job at Young & Rubicam Advertising. Ten years and several tier 1 New York agencies later, she swapped the excitement of the Big Apple for her weekend home, a farm in rural Massachusetts, where she expanded her writing experience, creating innovative radio commercials (one, a Clio Award winner) for a local FM station.

    But Linda missed her former professional life. She relocated to Houston, Texas, as a copywriter at a national agency, followed by promotion to Associate Creative Director. After 7 years in the Lone Star state, she returned to her native Rhode Island as a VP/ Creative Director. She transitioned into academe, teaching advertising courses at Northeastern University in Boston and developing the forerunners of Creative Aerobics at the Rhode Island School of Design. Professorships followed in southeast Missouri; at the flagship University of Florida; in southern Illinois; and summers in Ahmedabad, at MICA. During this period, Linda and her students won local, regional, national, and international advertising awards.

    Linda retired from teaching but continues to accept freelance writing assignments, international awards for them, and commissions for her serious and sacred music compositions. But, alas, no Broadway shows. Currently, she lives outside of Nashville, Tennessee with her 17-year-old Turkish Van kitty Sweetie, and her husband.

    Dr Arpan Yagnik feels that the notion of life being handed down to us, ironically, is getting narrower and constricted. We define ourselves, others, cultures, and experiences in small boxes that are bleak and despondent. Arpan urges his readers to explore their world and existence with the magnitude and intensity necessary to reach a certain phenomenon, reaction, or result by attaining a philosophy he calls as ‘simple living and high thinking’.

    He is a much sought-after speaker who delivers—and also designs—life-changing techniques, challenges the human mind, and accelerates personal and professional growth. His TEDx talk on ‘Creative Aerobics’ in 2016 was well received and his other speaking engagements were at AAUW Equity & Convention Day in Columbus, OH; TEDxSalon event in Ahmedabad, India; and Sant'Anna Institute in Sorrento, Italy.

    A native of Ahmedabad, India, Arpan completed his PhD in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. He has an unparalleled love for teaching and is Assistant Professor of Advertising at Penn State University in Erie. Along with teaching and research, Arpan has set in motion a plan to establish a Center for Creativity Enhancement to advance the role of creativity in societal development and well-being.

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