The Creative Brief: a relic or a resource?


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Evidently a lot of folks out there think creative briefs are a waste of time.
That’s the conclusion you could draw from the response to this article over at Why would so many feel creative briefs have become irrelevant, and who is to blame? Some blame clients for cramming too much information in them, or for being too “boilerplate.” Others blame agencies for not being creative enough in their approach to briefs. Others say briefs don’t take into concern the prospect’s point of view. One commenter even went so far as to argue “The brief is dead.”

It’s true the “traditional” brief leaves much to be desired in these days when marketers are pushing more and more initiatives, talking to more different audiences and being involved in a variety of Social Media platforms that require creative decisions to be made on the fly. The tightly-defined “packaged-goods-era” creative brief (that spelled out everything from the exact size of an ad to what “mandatories” need to be addressed) is way too confining when it comes to developing integrated multi-platform campaigns and programs. What if, for instance, the creative team determines the best solution to a client’s problem isn’t necessarily a print ad, but a web video series? Will the brief let them consider it?

Yet without a brief, how will agencies and clients stay on the same page?

For an industry that supposedly embraces “change” and “bold moves,” it’s interesting how a lot of us have gotten locked into approaching problems the same old way, even when we have evidence that way is no longer working. It’s time agencies and clients reconsidered the brief to once again to make it a useful tool in these days of multi-channel dialogue.

Is there a prescription out there to make the creative brief relevant once again?

Our view is that the traditional agency creative brief is a throw-back to a time when it was assumed that we could manipulate consumer behavior by crafting the “right” message. The overriding question behind every brief was “What do we have to say to make you buy from us?”

Today, the consumer has access to many sources of information (not just the marketer) and in general, she puts less weight on what a marketer says than what she hears from friends, family and her community. As a result, successful marketing is not primarily about communication anymore; it is about transparently demonstrating an understanding of a consumer’s problems and concerns and addressing them in a unique, meaningful way. The question for marketers today is “Who do we have to BE in order to attract you as a customer.” It involves operations as well as marketing, as well as an on-going communication stream. In order to lead to success, any iteration of a creative brief must acknowledge this truth.

The next generation creative brief should start with the organization’s Brand Vision, which answers the question “What’s the one thing we want people to feel (and think of) when our name is mentioned, that is unique, meaningful and true.” Putting this thought at the forefront of every brief, whether for a branding ad campaign, a social media promotion or a price-and-item ad, assures that whatever the communication, it will be crafted with the intention that receivers will walk away with the same emotional take away. The brief itself needs to be acknowledged as a flexible document that serves as the “starting point” for both agency and client.

Yesterday’s “campaigns” have given way to today’s “content platforms.” As conditions on the ground change, and as new opportunities or obstacles surface, so, too does the nature of communication.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Mickey Lonchar
Mickey Lonchar has spent the better part of two decades creating award-winning advertising with agencies up and down the West Coast, Mickey currently holds the position of creative director with Quisenberry Marketing & Design, a full-service advertising and interactive shop with offices in Spokane and Seattle, Wash.


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