Besides winning a new account, few things create as much excitement in an Agency as a new Creative Brief. When the email pops in your inbox an otherwise drab day is easily transformed into one filled with creative possibility. But what makes a good brief? What makes a creative guy or girl willingly sacrifice everything else in life in service of a breakthrough idea? It is true perhaps that different agencies have different approaches. And even within the same agency, Creatives may take different approaches to their work. But after a decade of producing all kinds of work for different clients, I have a fairly good idea of the kind of brief that gets my wheels turning. So I've tried to distill the five things I think make up a great creative brief.
1. A great brief is exactly that, brief.
Brevity is the soul of wit they say, but it is also the soul of clarity. Achieving this brevity/clarity is not always easy, but it says that the client understands at more than a visceral level, the DNA of their brand, and can communicate it in a way which opens up the door to ask the right questions. Because ultimately, all great work comes down to asking and answering the right questions.
2. A great brief is a Marketing problem well-defined.
I sometimes remind my peers that we are not in the campaign business, we are in the problem- solving business. A great brief helps us to understand the nature of the problem that a client faces, rather than being a prescription of what or how to approach the work. Defining the problem provides a high level context from which to begin our exploration. The good thing is that having such a context is not as limiting as one would be inclined to think, but rather it provides a clear path for getting to the kinds of consumer and cultural insights that yield great creative results.
3. A great brief is Audacious
Audacity is the substance of dreams. A great brief gives the Creative permission to think freely, and think big. How will your product change people's lives, even just a little ? How should people feel having interacted with it? Why should they care, let alone believe in it? What is your ultimate ambition for your brand? You will find that when you are audacious, the Creative becomes so committed to your brand that they will even question your brief, and often end up giving you something you never asked for, but totally love.
One of the quirkier things I've worked on was WAY back in 2010 at the height of the Global Financial Crisis. At the time, the smallest local bank and investment advisory in Jamaica wanted to assure their clients that they were committed to their success in spite of all that was happening. From completely left of field we had a wacky idea of parodying some of our favorite films to make the point. A little audacity in this case, took us a long way, and the result was well received. These are a couple of spots from the series: (CGI courtesy of 2010).
4. A great brief cuts out the Bullshit
I have a confession to make. I've been reading a fair number of textbooks on Marketing recently, and I've been learning a great deal, but what impresses me most is the ability of some authors to use as many words as possible to explain really simple concepts. Par for the course I suppose, but a great creative brief avoids the Marketing fluff as much as possible. It speaks from the heart. Sounds sappy, I know. But you are asking us to create emotionally compelling work, create new connections no one has ever seen, search for the simple brand truth, and tell it well. More than anything, a great brief is a 'thought starter' that sets the creative off in the right direction without too much getting in the way.
5. A great brief sets the tone of the Relationship
Usually, a creative brief precedes a first meeting. And like all relationships, they work best when good faith is reciprocated. You'll find that the better your brief, the richer the discussions will be. The more thought that goes into the brief the better the quality of ideas you will receive. Creatives are notoriously paranoid, suspicious, and overly cautious about sharing their best ideas with clients they believe are undeserving. No one will tell you that of course. But a great brief goes a long way in breaking down those barriers to a great relationship, and ultimately, great creative work!