What's in your Creative Brief?

One of the most neglected steps in agency process is the creation of a solid starting brief. The brief should be more than just the basics of a general background document. A well-prepared brief is one that not only has input from the client, but includes a well rounded set of input from many internal partners, including account management, strategic planning, media planning and your creative department.

(Stop, hold on a sec. before we go any further, I need to interject - there is no one size fits all brief. It should be smartly written and cover the basics. It doesn't need months of development or thirty re-writes. Want the short cut? Cool, here are the basics... answer these questions; What's the goal? What's preventing you from getting there? Who do you need to talk to, to change the conversation? Why would they care? How are we going to get there? And what's our point of view? Ok, there's the short version, you now have the option to stop reading.)

Your strategic department plays a huge role in how this document is put together. Effective advertising and successful projects can trace a lot of their success from a great starting point. That starting point is a creative brief with sound strategies, presented during a productive kick-off meeting.

The brief is the document that outlines the projects framework, which includes the projects background, its objectives and strategic goals, relevant research and competitive environment information and current consumer information to the old fashion proposition and positioning statement, budget overviews, mandatories and basic timeline.

That sounds like a lot of information to cover, but in the end the document should be relevant, timely and fully cover the basics. It should also inspire the entire team so that they have the information they need to channel their creative efforts to produce solutions that not only serve the best interests of the client, but produces great work.

Most importantly, the creative brief should be a balanced document that is going to be helpful to the overall creative process. If there is too little information on the brief, stop the kick-off meeting. The same should go for having too much information on the document. The brief is not meant to be a doctoral thesis, if your agency is spending too much time creating the document, while it whittles away precious project time, you may need to take a step back and make adjustments.

Questions to answer on the brief may include;

Project Background
What's the background to this job? 
What's the client asking the agency to do?
What's the competitive environment? 
Who are the consumers?

Strategic Viewpoints
What's this specific project’s strategy?
How does this fit in to the overall strategy (for the client or brand)?
What's the relevant research?
How does the agency perceive the product/brand? 

Positioning / Position Statement
What's the agency being tasked to do on this job?
What's this brand’s positioning? 
How does this fit in with the overall corporate positioning?

The Task
What are the client’s objectives for this project?
What are they expecting to accomplish?
What are the basics we need to communicate? What are the mandatories? 

The Audience
Who are we talking to?
What do the consumers feel about the category, the brand, the product, the company and the competition?
What do we want the consumers to feel or perceive at the end of the project?
What do we want the consumers to do?
Where are we driving the consumers?
Why should the audience care about the positioning?
How should we communicate with the consumer? Tone, voice.

The Basics
What's the scope of the media?
What's the budget?
What's the timing?
Who's on the team?

And lastly, we should ask ourselves, does this brief make sense? Is this the right project we should be doing for this client at this time?

Alternate Agency Examples
(Condensing to get to the core)

BBH's foundation questions:

WHAT key business challenge does the brand face?

WHO are we trying to engage and what competes for their attention? 

WHERE and WHEN will communication have most power? 

HOW does the category engage creatively and how could we challenge this?

Practical considerations. 


Crispin's foundation questions:

At a Glance
What is the most relevant and differentiating idea that will surprise consumers or challenge their current thinking of the brand?

What is the psychological, social or cultural tension associated with this idea? What makes our target tense about the idea?

What is the question we need to answer to complete this assignment?

Talk Value
What about the brand could help us start a dialogue between the consumers, around our target and/or within pop culture?


The Interactive Brief 

How are consumers currently interacting with your brand?  

What social objects will meet our interactive goal? 

What impact or role do we want consumers to have in messaging, or content? 

What kind of social currency does our target have? (To what extent do the target consumers share a brand experience as part of their everyday lives? )

Any recent metrics that could guide us, or that we should ignore? 

What are the technology challenges we need to meet, challenge or innovate?

What role does content and storytelling play in this experience?