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How important is a creative brief?


This week is Good Brief Week supported by the Incorporated Society of British Advertisers (ISBA) and Institute of Practioners in Advertising (IPA). These two bodies have created a week-long series of six different inspiring events, debates and discussions designed to focus on sharing great briefing practices. They take place in London, from 02 – 06 November.

Because communications within the marketing world are evolving so quickly, both agencies and clients need to be at the top of their game when it comes to writing briefs and ensuring that the key outcomes are clearly understood by all stakeholders – which includes the CEO of the client company and also the account and creative teams within the agency.

So, where does creativity come from? It comes from two sources… the client and the agency. It is not a one-way street. A good brief doesn’t just happen; it’s an art that takes time to craft starting with the outcomes desired and in depth discussions with product owners, customers and the marketing team.

A great brief is a concise strategic document. It requires the brief writer to be on their project, know their product, their competitors and the needs of their customers. Many argue that a great brief should not be longer than one side of A4, but that is not strictly true, especially if a new agency has been appointed to the project.

In a multi-channel and increasingly real time world, the need for breakthrough ideas has never been greater. It is only through getting that brief spot on that you will quickly unlock the idea that can provide the creative framework for an effective and response-led piece of communication. Clearly, spending time upfront getting to grips with a creative brief will yield much better results.

Top 10 pointers – How to write a creative brief:

Assuming the agency/designer/writer has no prior knowledge of your organisation or its activities. It is all too easy for work to fail because of incorrect assumptions. Supply the essential information such as company brochures or links to the website etc. alongside the brief.

Explain why this brief has come about and how this relates to the wider corporate goals.

Current issues
Summarise why your target customers are not choosing your brand today, and why they are choosing your competitors’ products or services.

Desired outcomes
State clearly what the business needs to achieve as in what ‘success’ looks like i.e. what are the desired outcomes? Include how you want your customers to think, feel, know and do after seeing the new communications.

Attainable objectives
Let’s be realistic. A piece of creative can generally only achieve a specific objective not half a dozen outcomes – even if the creative is one element of an overall campaign. In addition don’t be ambiguous or contrary. For example, a brief recently sent to us stated that the new logo to be designed needed to convey a company that is warm and fuzzy, yet appeals to corporate professionals. In this instance, as an agency, we will ask you to re-write your brief to ensure it is specific and attainable.

Include your positioning statement and what it is that makes your product/brand unique – be clear about your niche?

Customer insight
Create a persona to represent your target audience: age, sex, likes, aspirations, etc. Why they do or would buy from you and how they behave.

Don’t use templates
We highly recommend writing a new brief for every project to ensure that it is relevant and will achieve your specific outcomes. Some headings will be consistent but the content should be amended as required.

Rationale and benefits
State why you believe your audience will believe your claims – can you back this up with facts, research, case studies and testimonials etc? Make this information available to your agency.

Execution guidelines
For a new agency, supply brand guidelines, tone of voice, preferred format (how the communication is to be received), art direction (in relation to photography), and of course clear timings and budget, as well as if the creative is a solus item or part of an overall campaign.

By including the above pointers, you will be on your way to providing your agency with a comprehensive brief from which they can develop creative concepts for your review and feedback. Finally, do ensure the brief is signed off internally to ensure that all stakeholders buy into the brief and the outcomes to be achieved.

Creative design whether it is in print, upon fabrics or responsible for the manufacture of consumables, is fundamental to how we all live; it provides us with information, makes a style statement or influences us to behave in a certain way and should not be underestimated. And when you combine creative design with carefully considered words and typography, you can produce the most compelling and effective piece of communication to prompt a specific action. How can we can talk with such passion and authority about this subject? It is because we have recently been included in the top 50 design blogs, in the UK, by Rebateszone.

As part of our offer at Direct Approach, we offer clients free brief appraisals and will challenge a brief if we feel it will not achieve your goals; providing guidance and offering our recommendations at no additional cost. If you have a branding, design or print brief that needs a professional eye, contact us at: