The Creative Brief: An Oxymoron?
Creative brief. An oxymoron? After all, creativity encompasses multiple stages like preparation (research); ideation (brewing ideas); illumination (the “aha” moment); and presentation (sharing/critiquing ideas). Creativity is not brief. The creative brief, however, is just one element of the entire creative process and it falls within the preparation phase. It is a critical communication tool used to align agencies with clients before sending the agency off to do what it does best – create.
Like the best short story, the creative brief should be succinct and meaningful. Its purpose is to provide the agency with specific, unambiguous information about a product, market, brand identity, and marketing objective. A well-written brief enables an agency to effectively and efficiently work through the creative process to produce imaginative and persuasive campaigns.
Although it takes time up front to create a well thought through creative brief, doing so is critical to laying the groundwork for producing and executing effective tactics, whether they be a holistic advertising campaign, specific direct mail campaign, or a website redesign. Like any strategy document, it has to be accurate and on-point; otherwise you’re wasting precious time and money. Providing wrong direction or no direction to your creative team helps no one, regardless of the training, experience and talent you have working with you.
So what goes into a creative brief? Briefs can vary depending on the specifics of a project, but top level, they should include:
- Background – key business objectives , what’s going on in the marketplace and how the brand fits into this scenario
- Target Audience – demographics (age, sex, income, etc.) and psychographics (pastimes and how the audience thinks, feels and behaves in relation to the product category as well as your brand and specific product or service)
- Communication Objective – what you are trying to communicate to the target audience (note: this is not the message or copy points)
- Positioning Statement (if you have one) – a strategic statement that articulates in one or two sentences your brand’s distinct value to your customers in relation to your competitors
- Desired Action – what you want the target audience to do as a result of the communication (call, e-mail, buy something, etc.)
- Message – single, most important thing to say to the target audience
- Support Points – a couple of bullet points that give credibility to your message (reasons to believe)
- Mandatory Elements – information to include in all promotions, e.g., logo, tagline and web address, terms of the direct response offer, etc.
- Budget – amount to create and execute the campaign
- Timeline – deliverable dates
- Addendums – reference sources such as previous ads, brochures, competitor ads, books, videos or Web sites
- Contact Info – links to people, research or resources that can help the creative team
You owe it to yourself and your brand to achieve clarity up front. By freeing your agencies from the chore of guessing what you want, a well-prepared creative brief enables them to focus freely and completely on creating strong and compelling stories to engage your audiences. Nothing beats the thrill of an agency presenting an “aha moment” so elegantly simple and compelling that you wonder why you didn’t think of it yourself. When that happens, congratulate yourself. You’ve prepared them well.