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The creative brief project

February 8, 2011


The Account Planner’s most important “product” is supposed to be the creative brief.

Jon Steel devoted chapters to it in his landmark book,”Truth Lies and Advertising” and “the brief” is still the yardstick by which strategic input is measured.

However, things have changed:

1. The world has gotten faster

2. Technology has fundamentally transformed communication

3. Breakthrough matters more than anything

4. Conversations are often a brand goal

5. Powerful insights aren’t always easy to find

6. Creatives often don’t want to have the most pointed and sharpest brief

7. The internet has empowered every creative to challenge the brief and perhaps even come up with a better one on their own

8. Communication has now fragmented to such a point- how can there be one brief for everything?

9. No one reads anything anymore

I was stuck yesterday by the comments from the Groupon CEO, which seemed to directly reference the brief.

“The firm that conceived the ad, Crispin Porter & Bogusky, strives to
draw attention to the cultural tensions created by brands. When they created this Hulu ad,
they highlighted the idea that TV rots your brain, making fun of Hulu.
Our ads highlight the often trivial nature of stuff on Groupon when
juxtaposed against bigger world issues, making fun of Groupon.”

Clearly, he saw how CPB’s brief opens the door for a powerful idea and obviously, we all know now how the execution has been questioned.

I want to hear from everyone- creatives, designers, planners what they think about the current and future role of the creative brief- is it still vital and alive, or is it broken and irrelevant? What have people done to refresh it and to keep it alive? What needs to be done?

I want to encourage a broad-ranging debate and a discussion.

Obviously, I am making a very general/generic statement and we know that so much has to do with the quality of the brief itself, rather than the format.

I also know that it’s not about the brief, but briefing and it should be about continued conversations and collaboration and all those other critically important things, but at the end of the day, most creatives still get handed a piece of paper at some point in the process and that’s what i want to hear about.

Planners are using a variant of a tool that’s 20+ years old and I am keen to know where it stands today.

All your thoughts will be shared on this blog and hopefully we can have an interesting debate.

Some good things to stir the debate

Gareth Kay’s Presentation- The Brief in the Post-Digital Age

Nick Emanuel’s- Creative Brief Workshop

Patricia McDonald – Planning for Participation

Griffin Farley’s Presentation- How to do Propagation Planning

Russell Davies- The Perfect Creative Brief- from 2006

Jasmin Cheng’s Research Project on the Creative Brief

Howard Marguiles on What Creatives want from Briefs

Will Whalley on The Tyranny of the Creative Brief

Richard Huntington- What’s in a Format- a review of different agency briefing formats

Finally, a creative viewpoint on the problems of a bad brief

Posted by Ed Cotton

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