What Does an Inspired Creative Brief Look Like?
Adapted from How To Write An Inspired Creative Brief (iUniverse.com)
By Howard Ibach
Dateline: October 5, 2009
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It turns out that no two briefs look exactly alike. Thatís good.
It speaks well for a document that it can be so important and still be adaptable. Itís organic, not static. (And itís not rocket science!)
The creative briefs youíll review here are, quite simply, well-written and inspired documents. And theyíre different in one way or another from each other.
But pay close attention to what they have in common. And to the vocabulary used by the writers to answer each section. These examples are from UK agencies. The UK is the birthplace of the art and science of account planning. Many believe that our British cousins are the finest creative-brief writers on the planet. I agree.
Itís my job to help correct this imbalance. Beginning with you. Letís examine each brief for its strengths and, if we can find them, weaknesses.
This creative brief was written by the folks at a UK
agency called hhcl/red cell, which shut its doors in 2007,
regrettably. It was a well-known branding agency that won
tons of awards and accolades for its creativity. In fact, you
may have seen some of its TV spots, particularly for soft
drink Black Currant and Maxwell tapes.
There are lots of things to love about this brief, and nothing
at all to not love.
Start with the opener:
As they like to say in the UK, thatís brilliant.
What is defines the status quo.
What if is the equivalent of what Iíd call communication
objectives, which Iíll define more clearly in a moment.
So in a typical brief, that question might be posited this
Reveal some of Icelandís hidden secrets. Inform (tell) Mum
about all the other great reasons to shop there.
Either way works fine, but Iím intrigued by the use of a
question. Why? Questions get you thinking. Creatives are
naturally curious and a question is hard to ignore.
More importantly, notice the use of verbs here, revealed and
told. These are key to writing a clear and inspiring brief. I
recommend verbs over adjectives.
Now understand something: I love verbs. They have a need
to be doing something. As a writer I have a special affinity
for anything that suggests action. I want my reader to do
something. To act when she reads my ad.
ďAction is character,Ē as F. Scott Fitzgerald said.
Use verbs to describe your objectives so creatives get a clear
understanding of what the advertising (TV, DM, billboard,
banner ad, etc) must accomplish.
Creatives get verbs. Simple, straightforward. Theyíre the
John Wayne of words: strong, silent, action-hero types.
Further down in the brief you get to the section Who are we
talking to? I think this is especially well written. You donít
see any bullet points, no acronyms such as HHI. The writer
painted a word picture of the typical Mum who shops
Hereís another Rule of Thumb: Donít give creatives a list
a statistics. Use statistics to create a three-dimensional
person, someone real. Create a mini-narrative, a compelling
story if you can.
Next is the core thought. This is equivalent to the
proposition mentioned earlier in the book by John Hegarty. I prefer
single-minded proposition but theyíre all synonymous.
So if I were to write ďThereís more to Iceland than
anyone ever knewĒ on a piece of paper above or below a
photograph of an Iceland supermarket, Iíd have to agree
with John Hegarty that I held in my hand the first ad for
the campaign as outlined on the creative brief.
My job as a copywriter would be to write a better headline.
Finally, Iím very impressed with the brief writerís use of
insights under the section called What are the ranges? My
guess is that ranges refers to a product category.
These insights are like their own propositions, and
therefore work as first ads, as if they were headlines.
An even briefer brief comes from glue, a London-based ad
agency. The product is called Ello and itís made by Mattel.
Itís a toy for girls.
This is a tight brief. Very sure footed, no wasted words, to
Notice first the use of verbs in the section called What are
we trying to achieve? I gravitate toward verbs a lot, and hereís
To excite...and to launch...
Noticing a pattern?
Notice as well that you donít find a laundry list. Four
things, very specific.
Next, look at Proposition:
Put that line next to a photo of the product. How would it
work as a first ad?
The brief below is part of a PowerPoint presentation that I found
on Slide Share. Tango is a popular fruit soft drink in the UK.
This is one of the finest, most interesting and well-written creative briefs Iíve seen in years. Go to school on this document.
My single bone of contention: The first item under What do we need to do?
ďIncrease sales of Tango.Ē
Okay, Iím in favor of clarity as much as the next guy, but címon folks. It helps no one in the creative department make an ad when youíre told you need to increase sales.
Thatís a great big ďduh.Ē
I actually live for the day when a brief appears before me that reads, ďSales are too high. Create an ad that cools things off.Ē
Now look at the rest of the entries.
What do you see? Verbs:
These statements offer clear instructions to creatives about the task at hand. They get what the advertising has to do.
Thereís a reason why I keep harping on this. (Keep reading. Slow wind up to the pitch.)
Next, insights! Creatives love insights! If you have them, and this brief is loaded with both market and consumer insights, share!
Thereís no one, universal way to write about insights. Itís not like you always use verbs and never nouns and adverbs. When you donít have insights, itís a dilemma. But there are ways around that.
What is the single most important thing to say?
Another great variation on single-minded proposition.
And I love the answer:
Join the Tango resistance.
Here, Tango becomes the modifier, the adjective. The key
word is resistance. And what a great word it is.
The single thing is also a great first ad. In fact, it would be
a challenge for the creatives to improve on it. And if youíve
seen the history of Tangoís TV spots, the work always
shines. Still, this is a great brief. I wish Iíd had the chance
to work from it.
Finally, the brief writer, a fellow named Vincent Thomé, a
French account planner working in London, included creative
starters. If you ask me, heís a creative in plannerís clothing!
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Excerpted with permission from How To Write An Inspired Creative Brief (iUniverse.com) by Howard Ibach. Copyright © 2009. All rights reserved.