How to write a good brief.

Published 30.08.2016

I came across this when someone shared it on LinkedIn a few weeks back. It’s an old blog post, but an important piece that I wrote for Thinking Juice’s blog back on the 1st of January 2007 – you’d have thought I’d have had something better to do on New Years Day?!

Certainly, it’s a little out of date, but the core principles remain true. Here it is:

There are many ways to write a good brief. From company to company, each use a different format or style. The most important thing to remember is to consider each of the following questions. There are no rules that ensure a great brief, but there are some very important principles. First lets consider the ingredients.

What is the objective and role of this communication?
Reflect on this for a moment. It’s the most essential point of any brief – what is the required outcome? Try to convey clearly what you want to achieve. Consider the following: What do we want people to do differently? What are people doing now? What do competitive communications look like, how do we avoid looking like them?

Who is the target audience?
It is vital to consider who the target customer is. Where can they be found and how can they be reached? It is impossible to appeal to everyone. Demographics are important, especially for media selection, but more importantly you need to identify the attitudes and aspirations of our target audience.

What is the role of the product or brand?
If you understand your target audience, you can start to understand the role your product or brand plays in addressing their emotional and functional needs. This can be the start of a brand promise, with which we can define the entire product and/ or brand experience.

What is the proposition?
With each campaign, there is, or should be, a single-minded thought that each communication will bring to life in a compelling way.

What is the support or reasons to believe?
It is the creative’s job to give the consumer reasons to believe in a product or brand to trust the campaign. Support should be as well planned and thought-through as any creative execution.

What is the unique personality of the brand?
You use a product, but you have a relationship with a brand. When defining personality, avoid generalisations – they are meaningless. Your target, for example, cannot be “everyone”. Be as accurate a possible – the mood and tone of the creative will be based on this description.

Maximise your chances
A brief is not an inconvenience – it is an opportunity to do great work, build the brand and ultimately the business. Commit to your brief. They do take time to get right, but any account handler, planner or client would be quick to reject poor creative why should a creative start from a poor brief?

Consider a new target audience – the creative team.
The target audience for your brief is not the MD, CEO, marketing department or planners? it is the creative team. It’s not always sales charts, or financial plans that motivate them (although it will some). Creatives must create. They live to devise campaigns that tug on the heart-strings as well as the wallet. Inspire them.

It’s all there in black and white.
Don’t always rely on the paper brief. The written work is a great way of collecting all of your notes and all of your points, but a face-to-face brief is a great way of adding to it. So many times something said in briefing meeting is the key to a whole campaign.

Be focused.
A great example is to throw six tennis balls to someone in one go. They wont catch them all. Throw them one, and they’ll probably make an excellent catch. This thinking should run through the whole brief – focus your goals.

It’s called a brief for a reason.
Creatives should have access to whatever information that they need, but the ‘essence’ of the argument should be expressed in as few words as possible.

There is a story of an examination candidate who answered the question “What is courage?” (for which 40 minutes had been allowed) with a simple answer “This”.

Final thoughts.
In every agency, the cries of the account management team are often heard well you should have worked to the brief. But creatives don’t work to a brief. Creatives work from a brief.

The brief is a starting point, a launch pad to something new, exciting and successful. Be open-minded, and courageous. Most of all invest time in your brief, and encourage your creative team.

Suggested brief structure:

Section 1. Activity
Approval team:
Reviewers (legal team etc):

Section 2. Timeline
Creative brief date:
Presentation/ pitch date:
Final required by date:

Section 3. Objectives
Background/ market info:
Campaign Objective:

Section 4. Details
Target audience:
What is their main issue/ use for this product:
Who are your competitors and competitive brands:
What is our USP?
What is our difference?
What is the desired response?
Are there any incentives/ promotions/ timescales?:
How will we track response and success?

Section 5. Media
What is the format?
Any limitations/ guidelines?
Production details:

Credit to: Thinking Juice