About Mark Simon Burk

Hopping back a few decades


Twenty years ago I was asked to teach advertising to young aspiring writers and art directors at New York’s School of Visual Arts. I wasn’t sure what I’d do, but I loved the idea of helping creatives learn the tools they’d need to become great idea-makers. The day I started teaching, I also began my own journey as a student of learning.

We didn’t think about ‘how’. We just did the work.

Through my years as a writer, ACD and CD at Deutsch, BBDO, FCB and J. Walter Thompson I’d never thought about the ‘how’ of how I came up with ideas. My clients represented a huge swath of business categories — IKEA, U.S. Navy, Conde Nast, Foot Locker, General Mills, Campbell’s, Kraft, Kellogg’s, P&G Bounce, Bowne, UBS, Bristol Meyers Squibb, Dodge, Ann Taylor, Sebastian Pro, Burger King and Pizza Hut. They didn’t ask for a process. They just wanted the work.

I became more and more interested in the how of making ideas, and shifted my focus from making advertising to helping companies learn how to think in new ways — about themselves, their brands, and how they converse with people. I developed and facilitated innovation off-sites for Campbell’s, AIG and Ann Taylor using everything from gumballs to immersive futuristic worlds. I helped Tommy Hilfiger and AIG create new businesses and new lines of businesses, and developed and led innovation summits which brought together cross-disciplinary teams from around the world. I was hooked. It wasn’t just about the final idea, it was about how we get there.

How Make Brilliant Ideas was born

I continued to investigate how we think as creatives in advertising and how creatives think in other fields. My goal was to develop a process for making ideas that would be a solid foundation for art directors and writers to build their careers on. The Make Brilliant Ideas method is the result (learn more about it). It’s at the core of what I teach at SVA here in NYC and continues to evolve as I test new concepts and see what resonates with creatives.

And then there’s Mick Jagger in his skivvies and a few other tidbits

I met Mr. Jagger when I was teaching tennis at a club to make money while putting together my portfolio. He taught me a great lesson about story-telling which informed the way I think and approach advertising. We were both in our skivvies at the time. You can read about it here. In other creative pursuits, my fiction has been included in ‘Best of’ anthologies. I’ve had the fantastic fortune to develop a television series with the very funny, very special Leslie Nielsen and the honor to have developed a screenplay with Phillip Seymour Hoffman through William Morris.

On the 'Make Brilliant Ideas' methodology