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Improv in the Agency: The “A to C” lesson

Home / Creative / Improv in the Agency: The “A to C” lesson

Back in college, I decided I wanted to make up ideas for ad campaigns and write them for a living, so I worked hard and became a copywriter. Last year, I decided I wanted to make up comedic sketches on the spot and perform them in my spare time, so I played hard and became a member of Project Improv. Little did I know just how much the two would have in common.

Just like in the copy world, there are a lot of little tricks improvisers use to help us come up with ideas that make for a good show. At first, I found myself borrowing some of my copywriting tricks to improvise with. Now, I’m finding that I can use some of my improv tricks to make ads more interesting. That’s what I’m going to talk about in a series of blogs I’m calling “Improv in the Agency.”

For my first example, there is a basic device we sometimes use in improv called “A to C thinking”. What that means is, when you hear a word or idea (A), you choose to forego the obvious next thing it makes you think of (B) and instead, go for what that makes you think of (C), without ever letting anyone see that you thought of B. For example, if your stage partner says “I’m going to go to the flea market this weekend,” that’s A. B is whatever that makes you instantly think of next: flea makes you think of fly. “Fly” is B. Fly makes you think of airplane. Thus, C is “airplane”. You respond, “Ok, should we take my private airplane?” Now, you have a far more interesting scene happening. What kind of people travel to the flea market via private jet? A to C thinking is not something we do all the time (if every line went from A to C, you’d have a pretty nonsensical show and no one would be able to follow it) but for sparking an unexpected direction, it’s a pretty neat trick.

Whether we call it “A to C thinking” or not, we often do that here in the copy suite, too. For example, maybe we’re coming up with a name for a new product or brand. Our initial brainstorming meeting has already yielded all the obvious B names, but taking a smidgen of truth from one of those ideas and pushing it further gets us to C: the most brilliant new product name ever. Maybe B isn’t all that smart or compelling, but without it, we couldn’t have gotten to C. Sometimes I’ll take a list of B ideas and try to come up with a C for each of them. Some of the Cs aren’t half bad.

I know it’s kind of weird, but trust me… there are tons more improv skills that exercise the same creative muscles we use here at Current360. Stay tuned for next time and maybe I’ll share another one with you!

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