The ‘O’ in BBDO – Alex Faickney Osborn

BBDO was founded in 1928 as a merger between BDO (Barton, Durstine and Osborn) and Batten Company.

During the years of Alex Osborn’s association with BBDO, it became one of the leading advertising agencies in the United States, with a total of 52 offices throughout the world. Its annual billing increased from $1 million in 1919 to $20 million in 1939, when Osborn became executive vice-president, and to $207 million in 1957.

Osborn (b. 1888 – d. 1966) became increasingly active as an author, and published several books on creative thinking. In 1948, Your Creative Power was published, in which Osborn presented the technique of Brainstorming, which had been in use for many years at BBDO. Eventually, Osborn’s writing career overtook his work in advertising, and in 1960, after more than forty years, he resigned from BBDO’s board of directors.

In 1954, Osborn created the Creative Education Foundation, which was sustained by the royalties earned from his books. Along with Sidney Parnes, Osborn developed the Osborn-Parnes Creative Problem Solving Process (commonly referred to as CPS). He co-founded the Creative Education Foundation’s Creative Problem Solving Institute, the world’s longest-running international creativity conference, and CPS has been taught at that conference as well as year-round in other venues for more than 50 years.

Many of my Heartstorming concepts were born in creative problem solving. However, Heartstorming and CPS energize in opposite ways. Read the Heartstorming Philosophy.

Osborn lists steps that can be taken to improve creativity:

1. Break up the problem into smaller pieces
2. Search for alternatives.
3. What other uses?
4. What can be borrowed or adapted?
5. Modify with new twists.
6. What can be added or multiplied?
7. Is there something that can be magnified or minified?
8. What can be substituted?
9. What can be re-arranged?
10. Consider the vice versa.


Bob Eberle took Osborn’s creative stimulators and arranged them into an acronym to encourage ideation. Let’s SCAMPER our way through developing some new thinking about the promotion of commercial photography. Feel free to comment on this post by adding to the list. Remember not to judge your ideas as you are forming them. The silliest ideas may spark something original. Come up with as many ideas as you can in a limited period of time. Have fun.

1. Substitute: What if you substituted sky writing for paper? What if you transferred an image to a flattened out piece of silly putty? Send edible photographs. Cakes?

2. Combine: What if we collected all the photography promotions that were printed but never sent and arranged them end to end? How many times might they circumnavigate the planet?

3. Adapt: Create an ASMP or APA mobile. Maybe it is an 18 wheeler. Cover the entire vehicle inside and out with photographers’ promotions. It could be something like a traveling museum of printed promotions.

4. Modify/Minimize/Maximize: Create a truly mini-portfolio. Send it out with a loupe or magnifying glass.

5. Put to Other Uses: Use old promotions for papier mache. Make a forest of papier maiche trees.

6. Eliminate: What if art directors, art buyers and the like needed to promote to photographers to ask them to please collaborate with them?

7. Rearrange: Make the world’s largest house of cards. Get mentioned in Guiness Book of Records.

1 Comment on The ‘O’ in BBDO – Alex Faickney Osborn

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