Get to grips with your first creative brief

If you work in a creative field, the one fundamental and critical component of any successful creative delivery is the creative brief.

Great creative that hits it’s target can only be achieved by receiving, interrogating and fully understanding a well crafted creative brief. However, many marketers struggle to convey and express their requirements, thinking and ideas with eloquence and accuracy when it comes to delivering a creative brief.

Creative brief writing is an art form in itself. And many people struggle to write them. Either they’re too detailed, too prescriptive, don’t add the necessary value, or take things for granted. It’s common for key elements to be missing, provide little insight and even less direction. And I can say with confidence, that during my professional creative life, I’ve encountered more badly written briefs, than good ones.

* For the record, it takes time, effort, process, education, collaboration and patience to ensure a creative brief does what it needs to do. This is something I can confidently say, we’ve achieved in my agency.

Don’t get me wrong, the above insight is based on the initial brief being submitted to the creative team. If you feel that the brief isn’t quite right, misleads, or slaps the handcuffs on the team in some way, then address that prior to starting any work.

It’s critically important that the creative ‘doer’ has the opportunity to challenge a brief, ask questions, and incorporate new information and details that they feel have been omitted. There should be no barrier or reason why new information and detail can’t be discussed, agreed and signed off by the client a second time – or better still if the team writing the brief collaborates early on with the creative team, then the final document will provide more rounded and considered detail in the first place.

What is a Creative Brief?

The creative brief is a written document that establishes all requirements for a creative marketing project. They vary in length, sections, detail and direction, depending on the scope of work required, complexity of the project, and type of output required (motion, copy, design, illustration, dev, conceptual, etc).

A creative brief can also be referred to as a campaign brief, marketing brief, advertising brief; these terms are often used interchangeable, but they generally mean the same thing.

Photo by Mark Duffel on Unsplash

Writing a Creative Brief

The effort you put into writing a great creative brief, will hopefully be rewarded with great creative results. But we all need to follow the rules:

Slow down Jeronimo!

Time’s tight. But rushing to write a brief is going to be your downfall. Don’t look at it as an admin or process task and try to get it done double quick. It needs a little more finesse and care than that. Give it adequate time, focus and attention. I appreciate time is money, but get the brief wrong, you’ll be throwing them both down the drain.

Focus on the content and you’ll be maximising the potential return in ideas, quality, creativity, and results. Don’t be the one scribbling on the back of a fag packet and wonder why the creative output has no impact, doesn’t resonate with the audience, lacks inspiration, holds zero innovation – and you’re left in the dark scratching your head wondering how the creative team came up with this rubbish!

I’m not saying the creative brief needs to be a novel – less is always more! Ensure every word counts, concentrates on the task at hand, and conveys all the elements required in a concise, clear and consumable way.

Do your homework

The creative brief needs to have solid foundations. So you’ll need to research the audience, market, competitors, channels, messaging, previous successes and failures, and so on. By gaining as much background and intelligence as possible on the subject you’re briefing about is crucial and needs to be streamlined (I suppose that’s why it’s called a brief). If you have an excess of research, provide that to the creative team, but keep it out of the brief and offer it as supporting documentation.

Know the audience

Don’t just get to know your target audience, be them. Walk in their shoes, think like they think, see through their eyes. There’s no point writing a creative brief if you’re clueless about who you’re targeting. Your audience is the be all and end all. The starting point, middle and the ending. Everything needs to revolve around who you’re looking to connect with, engage and influence. So building a comprehensive knowledge, insight and understanding of your target customer is the single most important component in any creative briefing process.

Don’t get sidetracked by the product, or blinded by the tactics. Go as deep as you can in understanding the target audience and offer the creative team as much depth as possible. Then they’re able to become the audience and start the process of walking in their shoes and eating their lunch!

Say what!

Right after audience understanding comes the proposition. You need to be in a position that you can articulate this seamlessly. If you can’t do this, how would you expect the creative to deliver something anywhere close to requirements? It simply won’t happen.

The proposition is the crux of the campaign. Having a specific and clear proposition running through the brief will help the creative team convince the audience that they really do want and need what’s on offer. The more clarity you bring to the proposition the more the audience will see what’s in it for them. 

It is the proposition that will help define and build all future messaging, headlines, copy and call-to-actions for the project.

Don’t get all creative

You do your job, and let them do theirs – that’s a great mantra! However, when the marketing kids want to be as cool as the creative kids, and vice-versa, we’re all in trouble. 

Regardless of what you believe, we can’t be brilliant at everything. And that thought needs to apply to anyone who has the task of writing a creative brief. It’s never an easy job.

Writing the creative brief involves tapping into colleagues and individuals who may have very different capabilities or expertise than you. The brief writer needs to allow these people to do what you’ve asked them to do, whilst maximising the value they can bring. In other words – don’t be overly prescriptive or try to be creative yourself. Leave all your personal opinions, creative thoughts and design direction out of the brief. By all means you should discuss your thinking and any ideas you may have with the team, but let the creative team be creative. 

Provide the info

You need to make sure that the creative team have all the necessary information. Do they know what they are working towards? Are there any key parameters they need to abide by? What are the constraints they need to take into consideration?

Try to ensure that everything is clear up-front – brand guidelines, grid-layouts, technical details, photography budgets, timelines, deadlines, key stakeholders, review dates etc. Without highlighting all the little details, things can get complicated, costly and time-consuming. And the worst thing is after they’ve created their masterpiece, you ask them to retro-fit five partner logos, or inform them the client hates yellow!

By bringing all of this together in a way that gives clarity, you’ll get better creative delivery at the end of the day.

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