It's called ‘Brief’ for a reason - by Rob Campbell

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Creative briefs.

The bane of my fucking life.

I hate them. HATE THEM!

But – and it’s a very important but – you have to do them because they not only provide the framework and inspiration for creative teams to start creating their magic, but they become a piece of historical reference on the brand that ensures people won’t post rationalise the execution and miss out all the little bits that made all the difference.

That said, the debate of what should and shouldn’t go in a brief still rages and I find that sad because at the end of the day:

+ You should never be a slave to the briefing format, the briefing format should always be a slave to you.

+ Different people like different levels of information so a ‘one size fits all’ mentality, is totally and utterly ridiculous.

+ A short brief shouldn’t be an excuse for ignoring the real issues that need to be addressed & conveyed.

+ A long brief shouldn’t be an excuse for not being clear, concise and interesting.

+ Regardless of what you are being asked to do, a brief should always be interesting, informative & inspiring.

Because of this, we have a few different briefing ‘formats’ here.

Some are designed for more junior guys to ensure they’ve done all the critical thinking necessary … some are designed for clients to ensure they give us what they need, rather than what they want … but all cover 6 critical questions.

1. WHAT IS THE GOAL

What is the end objective? I don’t mean the execution but the business result.

In short, if they say, “We want some TVC’s”, ask why and don’t stop till you get some real reasons with some real quantifiable goals.

2. WHAT IS THE BARRIER

What are the key issue/s that are stopping this from happening right now.

It might be people’s attitude and behaviour … it might be a competitors product or distribution.

Maybe it’s an issue with our brand or communication or even a product quality or lack of innovation story.

Whatever it is, find the fundamental issue and write it down.

3. WHO DO WE NEED TO TALK TO, TO CHANGE THIS?

Who do we need to engage in conversation? Who do we need to inspire, inform, push?

Don’t just write a bunch of stats or bland statements, explain how they think, live, worry, behave.

Let people feel the person not just read a bunch of cold, clinical bullet points.

4. WHY WILL THEY CARE

This is where blunt honesty is needed.

You can’t write this from the perspective of what the brand wants them to think, it has to come from the audiences mindset. If you’ve done your homework for the previous question, you’ll know the answer to this … and if you’ve done your homework well, you’ll know the answer is not going to be some marketing hype/bollocks, but something that satisfies a real need in their life – be it emotional, physical or mental.

5. SO WHAT’S OUR STRATEGY?

Detail the macro approach you are taking to achieve this brief. It should be short, precise and full of creative mischief.

ie: Deposition the key competitors as ‘old success’ by making XXX the badge for ‘new, entrepreneurial achievers’ … or something.

6. WHAT’S THE KEY POINT OF VIEW

Based on the goal, the barrier, the audience and the strategy – what is the brands point of view on the issue they need to address.

It should be something that is obviously based on truth but also full of tension and pragmatism.

ie: “You can’t change tomorrow if you don’t act today” … or some other z-grade sounding Yoda impression.

Don’t rush it. Take your time to really craft it because apart from needing to be relevant to the task in hand, it also serves as the creative ‘jump off point’ and if you’re going to help your colleagues do something that is powerful and interesting with it, you’ve got to ensure they really feel the tension and energy of what they can play with or play off.

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You might ask why things like ‘tone of voice’ are not mentioned.

Well sometimes they are … sometimes they’re not … it depends on a number of factors, however at W+K, we place great importance on ‘brand voice’ so a few abstract words like ‘fun, upbeat & lively’ are not really going to cut it.

I should point out that how you brief your colleagues is another incredibly important part of the creative process.

If you give them a piece of paper and tell them to “read this”, you’re almost doomed before it’s even had a chance to begin.

While the brief should be inspiring on it’s own merits, it’s always good to think of ways to let your colleagues really understand what you are trying to get across.

That might mean you present it in a different location or environment to the office … that might mean you put them in situations where they can really feel what you’re trying to convey … that might mean you get interesting – yet relevant – people in to chat to them before you go through your hard work, but whatever you do, it’s always worth putting in that extra little bit of effort because it will genuinely pay dividends to the work that comes out the other side and that is ultimately what you’re going to be judged on.

At the end of the day it’s worth remembering there is no such thing as a perfect creative brief because ultimately, it’s about what you put on it – or how you present it – rather than what it looks like … however what I can say is that from my experience, as long as you have a culturally provocative point of view running all the way through it [obviously based on truth rather than 'marketing truth'] then you stand a much greater chance of creating something that affects culture rather than just adds to the blunt, advertising noise.

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By Robert Campbell, W+K's Asia Regional Head of Planning. Reposted with permission. Read his blog "The Musings of an Opinionated Sod"

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