I recently met with the MarCom manager of a major corporation whose team, he felt, was having trouble coming up with strong, consistent creative. In the conversation, I asked him to share with me the Creative Brief he uses. I barely knew how to react. The key ingredients were things such as the due date and the format of the end material and internal managers that need to be in the approval process. Oh, and a line on target demographics.
Mother of God (I’ve always liked that expression because it’s a bit like a biblical chicken and egg). That’s not a Creative Brief. The creative team would know everything about the assignment, and nothing about the direction they should pursue for the creative. No wonder his team was having problems.
It was a surprise to him when I shared a Creative Brief that had none of that assignment information. Not a whit. Nary a spec. It was a Creative Brief about direction. With information about the competition; understanding of the target audience – who they are, how they live, how our brand/product/service fits into their lives, their perceptions of the category and of our offering; an emotional benefit; what we provide that allows us to serve up that benefit; and a few mechanical things such as mandatories.
It was a brief designed to provide his team direction in developing creative – the creative idea. It was a CREATIVE Brief. Imagine.
I took him through a selection of Creative Briefs using this information for a diverse set of brands, and the creative that resulted from those briefs: CareerBuilder and Dahl Valves among them.
I believe “wow” was the word he used in response. Smart work. Insightful. Engaging. He’s actually a really smart guy and could see how this kind of direction could make a powerful difference.
So, what to do with the information he had in his Creative Brief? Throw it away? Heavens, no (feeling the spirit today). His team will need all that information to fulfill the assignment.
I personally use two briefs: a Creative Brief and an Assignment Brief (that’s really what his brief was).
A client with whom I worked had a single brief I liked a lot. It had the creative direction in the first part, and the particulars about the assignment in the second part – they wanted everything in one place. It was four pages long (actually two, front and back). Each portion took up two pages. Separate but equal. It knew the role of each section. I thought it was smart.
Writing Creative Briefs that provide guidance and inspiration to a creative team take time, effort and a number of revisions. They are harder than Assignment Briefs. And important not to mix up. But when you have a great Creative Brief, there are pretty strong odds you have great creative. Amen.
About the Author
Dave Hamel is currently Executive VP at Chicago advertising agency MSI, and has over 30 years of experience developing effective branding and creative on the advertising agency and marketing side of the business. Dave has won several EFFIE Awards – the top US recognition of marketing effectiveness – for brands such as CareerBuilder and the Bank of America. In addition, he has spearheaded strategic efforts for a diverse group of brands including Moen faucets, Sears, Helene Curtis, Prevacid, Diners Club, Unilever and Rust-Oleum.
Dave conducts Get Better Creative workshops designed to give creative professionals a solid framework to develop creative direction, guide the creative process, evaluate tactical directions, and present creative ideas. Register for the next workshop, November 5-6 in New Orleans, at AMA.com or learn about scheduling a workshop custom-tailored for your team at getbettercreative.com.