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Creative burnout in advertising: Eight ways to bounce back

Creative block or running out of ideas is something that most people in advertising go through more than once in their career. But how does one bounce back from a creative burnout? India's top advertising heads share their insights with BestMediaInfo.com

Running out of fresh ideas or experiencing a creative burnout is a constant in the lives of advertising professionals. 

The relentless pressure to perform for clients, and to come out with something new every time, is what leads to this burnout. 

BestMediaInfo.com reached out to top advertising minds of India to suggest eight ways in which the creative fraternity can bounce back from the exhaustion, and create fresh and inspiring work. 


“I strongly recommend that creative storytellers should be travellers,” said Azazul Haque, Chief Creative Officer at MullenLowe Lintas. Haque said the travel should be solo and not with family or friends. “When you are with family, you are engaged with them. You respond to them and their actions, but when you're travelling alone, you are reading stories around you. You put more time to see and absorb the experiences and environment.” 

Bobby Pawar

According to Bobby Pawar, Chairman, Chief Creative Officer at Havas Group, earlier people’s insights used to come from their own experiences. He says he likes to have different experiences. “I’ve always been keen on knowing new things about people’s lives; every time we go out (Pawar and his wife) I’m more interested in the conversations that people on the other tables are having. I like to try different kinds of experiences; travel is just one of those things. I like going to the local places than the touristy ones.”


Hemant Shringy

Hemant Shringy, Chief Creative Officer (Mumbai) at BBDO India said people must engage in active listening, especially in times like today. “I feel that we are so excited to tell our own stories and our own experiences, we miss out on listening as intently and actively as we should. Given the times, we don’t have the opportunity to see and experience a lot of things for ourselves. So now is the time to listen more compassionately and sincerely; I think that would turn out to be a very enriching experience."

Manish Bhatt

On the other hand, Manish Bhatt, Founder Director, Scarecrow M&C Saatchi advised people to be as observant as possible. He explained that advertising involves human life and emotions; when you create an ad it’s supposed to create a substitute for the brand image to the consumer beyond the numbers.

“Nothing would be better than observing life in different types of formats, there is a lot to consume and learn. One should look at it with curiosity and drive to learn. According to me, one should enhance their ability to observe things around them and that will be hugely beneficial because at the end of the day you have to connect with human stories,” Bhatt said. 

Consume content smartly

When meeting different people; travelling, going for adventures and experiences might not be possible. Another way to get authentic insights is to get smart with the way you consume content around you, creative leaders say. 

For example, Haque said that instead of consuming fiction, he likes consuming documentaries. “I like consuming reality more than fiction because I want to tell that reality in my way, so that I have signature storytelling.” 

Interact with people from various socio-economic backgrounds

Bhatt said coming from a small town, his journey through the years has helped him. He said as both his parents were teachers, they belonged to a humble background. 

“Having stayed with people from all socio-economic backgrounds and staying in touch with them has been a blessing; most of the people I’ve been brought up with are just a phone call away. My consumer connect is always updated for the same reasons. Lately, I haven’t been able to travel much but despite that, it is working out well for me. However, someone who has only experienced urban life surely needs to explore all aspects of rural life too,” he added. 

Consume social media smartly

While most of us use social media for various reasons, it is important to note that the medium is not reality and one can never be sure about the insights drawn through it, experts say. 

“The digital landscape and reality are very different. I would not be crying on social media. I rather cry on someone’s shoulders. I do not want to show my weakness on social media but in reality, people have weaknesses. The great stories actually always emerge from these realities, which you'll never see on social media because everything is beautiful and nice there. However, one can learn social behaviour or social media behaviour if at all you have to do a campaign that is social in nature. Human behaviour is very different in reality than on social media, which is why we should not mix the two. When we are doing stories about real life, we should not get inspiration from social media,” advised Haque. 

Be open, pick up activities that might not necessarily interest you

Pawar follows EDM music even though it does not resonate with his personal taste. He actively checks what is popping up in pop culture, follows interesting people and listens to different perspectives. 

“I believe for me, curiosity leads to creativeness. If you’re curious about things, you’ll learn different things, technology has facilitated learning for our as well as other’s lives,” he said. 

“Everything is a tool, if you are close-minded about it and you don’t have the skill set to use that, you should be willing to learn. I’ve had wonderful teachers and they’ve always taught me to venture out of my comfort zone that’s what one should do,” Pawar said. 

Use public transport

Azazul Haque

According to Haque, the Metro is where one sees reality and real stories. He does not like cars because they close you in a space. He said in pre-Covid times, he travelled to office by the Metro. 

“Advertising is nothing but a mirror of what’s happening around you. This is why I don’t like cars, because in a car you’re sitting alone. Autos, on the other hand, are open; you can see what’s happening at CP in Delhi. You get to see life; you get to see stories around. This is very important for any creative storyteller, not just advertising. If you can’t see life, you can’t tell life.”

Soak relationships and emotions

As a creative person, you have to be like a sponge to soak in experiences sometimes on a conscious level or on a subconscious level, said Shringy. He said creativity in advertising is becoming less about some mad or quirky idea that no one has seen before, to a more empathetic and compassionate way of working. 

“There is so much content out there that if you really want to engage with your audience, you have to engage with them. Soaking in experiences is one thing but soaking emotion and relationships are another. The more you engage, the more you will empathise with people at a human level, which increases your bandwidth as a creative emotional person. Understanding people, mindsets, feelings, sensitivity is important.” 

He said earlier when people wanted insights, a focus group would be called and the people would be strangers, which allowed them to know them only at a superficial level. He said interacting with people close to you like friends and family gives one a deeper insight. 


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