Comments are closed.
Planners are to blame for this. We’ve become a species of habit. I believe if the creatives are going to be handed a physical document (read:creative brief) at the end of the day, can we atleast explore different formats? For example, if it’s a brief for a toilet paper brand, can the brief be written on toilet paper itself? Or if it’s a brief for a cineplex chain, can the brief be made to look like a movie ticket? I think as planners, we need to shake off our laziness and almost clockwork-like tendency to start typing out a brief in a Word doc – the creatives are not going to get inspired by mere ‘plannerisque’ smart text anymore.
I think it’s important for the brief to be a living, dynamic document. Like you said, collaboration is key and if input from art directors and copywriters is present throughout the process, they will be more likely to use it as a guide and develop creative that is on strategy. I believe the primary purpose of the brief and briefing is to simultaneously inspire and focus creativity. Therefore, no brief should ever look and feel the same as the last or the next. The questions and format should be tailor made to address the different brand, audience, objective and so forth for each campaign. Keep the team involved and on their toes.
I do not believe that Mr. Steel ever intended to suggest that the physical brief be the yardstick by which planners are measured. In “Truth, Lies & Advertising” Jon states, “I was only able to find four of those briefs. There was a simple reason I could not find the others – there was no such thing as the ‘original’ brief. They had never been written…Until the day comes when we put creative briefs in consumer magazines or run them in the Superbowl, I think the time spent noodling over detail in a brief is wasted time. Well, perhaps not entirely wasted, but it could at least be better spent.” He also said, ?I personally detest filling in forms of any sort and for that reason have never introduced one in my own agency, but I do suggest a number of questions that I think every brief should attempt to answer.?
I believe that the brief could take any form, Mr. Steel seemed to prefer a creative briefing (we would call this brainstorming) although I doubt he would be closed off to the brief taking any form, so long as it answered the necessary questions.
? In those dark nights of the creative project where people start to question if what they are doing is any good at all, the brief is important to reference back to. Even when the main idea has changed, the real problem and target info can help reassure everyone.
? The template needs to evolve. To be short, I’m fully behind planning for participation from the start because WOM is the most effective means of marketing, and social media is the best way to sustain WOM.
? Unless planners are given credit for creative then there is really nothing physical they can be judged on besides the brief, and obligatory trend decks. However, being judged on relationships within an agency seems like a better measuring stick.
? The understanding of what a brief is suppose to do may be more important than what is actually in the brief. Especially in terms of digital: David Mortimer, “I’m beginning to think a good digital campaign is a bit like writing a brief. You produce something that inspires them to play.”
? It is much more about the briefing than the brief.
Ostensibly the brief was created so that planner and creative could work together. But, I wonder if the brief isn’t a relic of architecture, when the planning department and the creative department were on different floors and paper work was shuffled along in cubby holes or by a nice fellow with a rolling cart.
I made it several years working in creative agencies and startups before I ever wrote a brief, or saw one, actually. When I worked at [redacted], I never wrote a brief. I wrote briefs at [redacted], because of the CP+B DNA and had to rely heavily on the smart folks there to school me on the process. So how the hell did I manage to get creative ideas out of creative people without a brief?
I don’t think my solution is perfect, but it has worked. Look at the deck I did for No Right Brain Left Behind – http://www.slideshare.net/bud_caddell/how-do-you-design-for-creativity
That’s how I’ve worked with creative teams. And it involved spending a day together walking through a little in-depth understanding of the idea, some catalysts for thinking, and then some brainstorming together. Creativity is the most essential strength of the agency, so the challenge shouldn’t be passed like a football, it should be gently coddled like a newborn baby. After we gell together, the creative team often leaves, thinks on the challenge themselves, asks incredible questions, sometimes starts over – in other words, they do make it their own.
I showed up to a meeting at a big soda brand where we were supposed to begin the creative process with a few key teams – another agency started the meeting by pushing over their 1-page, 8-point font, clusterfuck of a brief in a “BOOM” sorta way. The conversation went nowhere for an hour. Creativity is always a process, the Brief often assumes that it’s simply a matter of stating objectives. That’s crucial, but it isn’t creativity.
If it’s your thing, by all means, follow your process, but don’t let process rule interaction.
The problem is not the brief. It’s the folks who own it– those responsible for bringing it to life. A well thuoght out brief will pave the way for great work: Print, Digital, Social or otherwise. Anyone who sees this document as a mere from to fill out should consider a career change. A great brief inspires, aligns, sets expectations, scratches below the surface, seeks truths, dismisses fluff and works as a compass to guide a group as they collaborate to solve a problem. There are agencies known for killing of creative work before a presentation, but we seldom hear about lead straetgists and creatives killing a briefing document. Shred more briefs. Get better results.
Planning for communications is like parenting. You can point a way forward, inspire, provide ethos and inspire goals, but you cannot force a child to do something and expect whole-hearted compliance. And I liken my creative breatheren to children in only the most positive, inspirational, eye-opening sense!
That is even more true when the choices of how to communicate have expanded assymetrically. So rather than attempt to nail down and force a single-minded message (that assumes passive consumption of that message by an indivudual), we try and answer some fundamentally different questions.
Four general areas we try to explore when briefing at Budding Culture include —
PURPOSE: What beliefs do we consistently uphold?How can we show leadership? What is our unique, defining reason for being?
PEERS: What peer-group bonds and values do our audiences share with us? With each other? What affiliations or community connections are meaningful to our audiences? Thinking of ‘Peers’ as opposed to ‘Targets’ can be illuminating.
PASSION: What are the ?hot buttons? that get people passionate about the product, brand, category or the task at hand?
PROVIDE: How can the communication task at hand add value to our product, service or brand experience?
This is not a comprehensive, one-size fits all briefing format, but as a rough guide for exploring and developing creative, interactive solutions, exploring these areas has worked really well for us.
Creative brief are like parents.
We don’t want anyone tell us what to do. We need people to give us firm guidance of what to do, even if we don’t listen the first time.
So, they are equally unwanted and desperately necessary.
Like parenting models, there is no single brief model.
The question to as is what brief is right for the specific team of people that will address the busienss problem we are trying to solve. Breif increasingly need to reach broader and more diverse talents on a team. Each with different inputes needed to solve a business challenge. Some firms can be more streamlined, others, especially teh more global have much greater diversity is the backgrounds of people to whom briefs are assigned.
Really, there are two primary points:
1. Context -what is the challenge.
2. Focus – how can we over come the challenge. This could be a great tension, a message, a traditional consumer insight, a consumer media behavior insight, and a million other things
Of course in this may be emboedded usual things like what is our audience, who are they as people, what do they think now, what do we want them to think in future, what behavior do we want, etc. If, and only if, they help with solving the problem or are helpful context for the particular backgorund of the team assigned to sovle the brief.
And a nice logo in the upper right corner, that is always necessary.
and I think these are one of those times.
Not to say this isn’t a topic worth debating but it sure seems like folks have been deabting it for, I don’t know, YEARS!
At one point does it get annoying? For me, right. now.
Who churns out the best, most original, integrated cross-channel work today?
W+K and CP+B and (at times) BBH.
I’d look at their briefs, processes, philosophies, and people at W+K, CP+B and BBH.
Everyone else at agencies are holding onto the old infrastrcture and way of doing things while claiming to be “new” and “digital” or “integrated” or “social” or “blah, blah, blah”.
I’ve come to realize, the ad biz loves to talk about whats new and different , or how to do things differenlty without ever pushing themselves and their clients to actually DO ANYTHING.
You know, making pushing people towards the new makes them uncomfortable and that might threaten the BOTTOM LINE.
It’s why Harley Davidson dumped their traditional agencies/AOR and claimed they weren’t open for biz while Victor & Spoils took the Harley brand and put it into their crowdsourced creative brief model and sure enough WON THE HARLEY biz.
Harley is probably just ESTATIC to meet with someone who is ACTUALLY DOING SOMETHING NEW and actually FIGURING OUT how that works.
Everyone else will debate “whats the future of ________” process while others JUST. DO. IT.
Signed yours truly,
Bitter dude tired of worthless debates
First off Ed, thanks for raising a very timely discussion. We are actually in the process of changing our brief to reflect the different reality of our world so have been thinking about all this.
In terms of writing the brief Bud and Heidi Hackemer (see her slideshare “Ideas, Ideas, Ideas”) have it nailed – the strategic idea comes out of good discussion and idea generation with creatives. If you want to write it down great. But even then, the brief can provide a framework for that discussion – the right questions or issues we should think about. This is particularly important when you are trying to imbue a new type of thinking in an agency culture.
In addition, the (written) brief is a useful tool for gaining alignment with clients or even other agencies.
That being said, the last thing it should be is boring.If you can’t find an untapped consumer insight (because Ed is right, there are not that many left), then get cultural. Write a story with the brand as the central character (as a way to identify tensions etc).
And finally (as Richard Huntington pointed out in a cool sketch some years ago), don’t keep the breif constant. It’s a constant discussion to a whip to beat people with.
That is probably one of the worst creative briefs ever – that is NOT a CB! I almost got sick watching this – as a planner, Whatever account person wrote that makes me embarassed for the profession.
Briefs should be a page, they should hightlight the target, and an insight – a consumer insight, not a brand one – a fundamental truth about consumers that can inspire creativity.
The function of a CB is to inspire the creatives. I have seen some terribley written “briefs”, but that’s because (just as the saying goes) everyone is an agency is creative and strategic, but not everyone is a creative or a strategist, and they shouldn’t pretend to be.
If the person who wrote this was a planner, they need to revaluate their career.
For me, a brief has always been “What we want you to do”. It used to be just what we wanted the creative department to do, but these days it’s what we want the agency (and often partners) to do. I’ve found that crafterspeople like very tight briefs: do this, mention that, for God’s sake don’t do X or Y. I remember that, when I started out as a copywriter in the late ’90s, clients wanted a ‘creative solution’, which was code for a ‘well-crafted solution’ with a ‘big idea’ if you were lucky. Over recent years, I’ve detected a shift, however. Agencies and clients want a ‘strategic solution’ – in other words, the big idea is the brief itself. The planner is expected to solve the client’s problem, and everyone else is expected to execute the big idea.
As a planner with a creative background, I do wonder whether this is entirely healthy. The challenge, perhaps, is how to solicit suffiencient initial generative involvement from creatives, media planners and other specialists without requiring The Meeting From Hell Which Can Never Be Scheduled.
So I come back to the brief as “What we want you to do”, and frankly I’m not fussed about how long it is or what the format might be. The objective is to get people with insight and the capacity for original thought to actually spend quality time thinking about the client’s challenge, and set the direction from which everything else flows.
“The Brief” should be brief… no more than 4 sentences on one A4
1/ The problem
2/ The proposition
3/ The target audience
4/ The deliverables
Both briefs and creative when done in a bubble produce bad work. Working within a team, sharing collective intelligence, is the only way to produce smart and engaging creative.