How to nail a creative brief

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April 29, 2016

Far too often these days the need, and desire, for a good creative brief is being seen as more and more irrelevant. I have been guilty myself of not being able to dedicate a few precious hours to write a brief in favour of a 10-minute chat with the creative team involved.
And I will tell you this; it does not work. Or it certainly doesn’t work well. A good, thorough creative brief identifies the important key benefits of the campaign, it tells the story and explains why it’s important to the audience, serving as a guide for the creation of new materials. All of this simply cannot be captured in a conversation alone.

Even a blank briefing template will go strides to facilitating the conversation that you should be having with the client; sit down with them, go through the points on the brief together and even share the completed document with them to ensure that everything has been covered – including your own back!

It seems simple but developing an effective creative brief is far more difficult than it may appear. The thing is though, a creative brief that achieves the results that you want should be challenging. Alternatively, a poor creative brief can waste time and money and create frustration, because the resulting concepts are not as the client expects them to be.

So how can we ensure a good creative brief? Here are a few things that are instrumental in creating one:

1. Background

Introduce the project to the creative team

What is the context for this campaign in summary and why is there a need for this particular project? What’s the bigger picture here and what is going on in the market at the moment? This section will probably be the lengthiest part of the brief as you will need to include enough information to ‘set-the-scene’ for your new campaign.

2. Communication Objectives

What outcome is the client looking to achieve as a result of this activity?

The client objective should be specific, attainable and should tell the designer what you would like the audience to think, feel or do. The objective should define exactly what the creative work needs to achieve.

“The purpose of the campaign is to position Bob’s Automobiles as the most trusted car dealer in town”

3. Target Audience and Audience Insights

Who are we talking to and what do we know about them?

Defining the target audience in a creative brief is more about how the people you are trying to reach think, feel and behave than it is about numbers and percentages. The aim here is to give a clear idea of who the audience is in a relatable way – a verbal picture that the creative team can talk to and visualise. The basic information that should be included is as follows:

– Who are they?

– Where are they?

– How will we communicate with them?

Once the target audience has been defined, you will need to include anything that we already know about them. Audience insights can be as detailed or as brief as needed, and you can really pull on your client here for help – no-one knows the customer like they do!

“Our target audience are busy professionals working in the The City of London and therefore will not have time or be interested in lengthy content downloads or articles”

4. Single Minded Proposition, Proof Points and Other Key Messages

What is the one compelling reason why anyone wants the product or service that the client is selling?

This is the hardest part of the creative brief to write because it carries so much importance and is typically the first thing a creative will look at when the briefing process begins.

Here is where you want to identify the single most persuasive statement you can present to achieve the objective and it should be one key message described in one single sentence.

Below are some examples of really great propositions:

Avis: We’re Number Two, So We Try Harder.

M&Ms: The Milk Chocolate Melts In Your Mouth, Not In Your Hand.

Nike: Just Do It.

FedEx: When It Absolutely, Positively Has To Be There Overnight.

Domino’s: You Get Your Fresh, Hot Pizza Delivered To Your Door In 30 Minutes Or Less – Or It’s Free.

What evidence do we have to support our key message?

Now that you have written your well thought-out, killer proposition, you will need to back this up with evidence. The best way to do this is to list out all of the the rational and emotional reasons for consumers to believe your statement, to try the product, to buy the service.

Other Key Messages

What other key messages do we need to get across? Write these as one-lined bullet points to avoid making them too longwinded.

5. Call To Action

What do we want the audience to do as a result of this communication?

This is the physical action that we want the audience to take – this may be to apply for a service demo, visit a website or contact the client directly. This should also be as unambiguous as possible – if you want someone to visit the website, simply ask them to do so: “Click here to visit our website

6. Creative Considerations

These are the things that we KNOW are required to be included in the deliverables and will include elements such as brand guidelines, creative look and feel and tone of voice.

7. Deliverables, Deadlines and Budgets

What do we need from the creative team and when do we need it by?

Here you can provide details on what is required, when it is being presented to the client and how much of the budget has been allocated to this (usually in time allowed).

“We will be presenting 3x email concepts to the client on May 1st. We have allocated 1.5 days to this portion of the project.”

If you know, this section is also a good opportunity to let the creative team know of any final deadlines for each piece and should also be accompanied by a full project timeline where possible.

Writing a great creative brief should be a necessity and not an option. It is important as account handlers that we make time, do our research and have answers to the calls of ‘why are we even doing this?’

The rest is now up to you…good luck!



Sarah Rudley, Account Manager

Connect with Sarah on LinkedIn.