I'm an aspiring copywriter who can string a snappy sentence together, but I have a lot less experience coming up with creative concepts for ads. I don't really know what's cliche/played out as opposed to what's original, or what reeks "amateur" as opposed to worthy of top agencies. And I don't always have time to scour blogs to find out (I bought this book the day before an unexpected interview). When I see a brilliant ad, I wonder "how the hell did they think of that?" - and I consider it a problem that I don't feel confident in my ability to come up with something comparably brilliant myself. This book has been great in that respect; now I feel like I have the tools I need for brilliant ideas, I just have to practice using them.
So: this book showcases creative, high-quality, awards-friendly (i.e., the consumer might not understand half of them, but they're very clever and all that) print ads (with a minority of TV, design, etc) paired with brainstorming questions that are intended to help you come up with creative ideas. Some of the questions seem so specific that I have a feeling the author thought, "Ok, I wanna include this ad, so I'd better come up with some BS brainstorming question that corresponds to it" - i.e., that he pulled the question out of his rear end. However, a lot of the questions/challenges are genuinely helpful - for example, thinking of an imaginative, funny, alternative use for the product (selling pillows? obviously people usually rest their heads on them, but what if they put their feet on them? or ate the pillow? or used the pillow to prop up a house that's tipping over?).
I agree with the other reviewer who said you could find all these ads (and styles of ads) on the web. This just aggregates it and prints it out. Nothing special. In fact, I wish it had Internet comments - it would be useful to read other people's opinions of the ads; what was done right and what was done wrong. But overall, it's the brainstorming questions I found useful - for me, the ads just served as examples to help clarify the brainstorming questions and illuminate some directions your train of thought might go, not to mention giving me a better idea of what separates the decent ads I see everyday from the "great" ones.
It's going to take a lot of experimentation and practice for me to put these questions to work - I think I'm going to copy them into my email so I can give them a quick glance when I have to come up with a concept on the fly - but so far it's the best resource I've found when it comes to improving your idea skills.
Anyway, even though it's print advertising heavy, these ideas can be used for all kinds of campaigns, not just print. I do wish there'd be a companion book showing you how to grow an idea from a print campaign into a multi-channel campaign covering radio, ambient, social, web, TV, etc. That seems to be my next challenge; figuring out how to cleverly apply the same idea to different mediums.
Overall, I would definitely buy this book again - they could have condensed it into a 15-page workbook, but whatever, it does the job and doubles as an interesting coffee table book, I guess. It does exactly what I wanted it to do: helps me come up with genuinely cool ideas for ads.