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Dig Deep into Our Briefs... Creatively TMI is a Good Thing!

Creative briefs or boxers: Early in the creative process, details matter.

Creative briefs that lack rigor and clear objectives are the earliest warning signs of a doomed client-agency relationship. Without explicit client guidance, creative teams enter a working relationship likely to make false assumptions, misinterpret instructions, and potentially miss the mark entirely. A successful brief is essential for productive discussion, outlining an ad campaign's mission, aim, purpose, and goals.

Clients have many concerns in addition to managing their agency partners, so it's no wonder that the creative brief process can take a back seat to just getting work done.

Clients often need more consistency to provide streamlined briefs to their agencies. They need to use standard templates, get important stakeholders' internal approval, and provide valuable context to the broader business objectives.

Here are four steps to ensure the briefing process is a thoughtful exchange of information that sets the agency up for delivering the desired results:

1. Develop collaboratively. Don't treat the creative brief as an email update or a checkbox on a client to-do list. The brief is not meant to be a static document but a collaborative exchange. It's meant to encourage dialog from the offset. Being open to working together on a brief requires trust and mutual respect. Discuss your strategies with your agency, exchange ideas, and develop a more robust brief together.

2. State a challenge, not a solution. The brief must invite the agency to solve the stated program or business challenge through the campaign. All stated objectives should be SMART—Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. As a result, the brief will inspire the agency to build on ideas, challenge the audience's or media's perceptions, and think creatively about the course of action for sharing a message.

3. Invest time for feedback. Always seek input from your internal marketing, product, and sales teams and other decision-makers or stakeholders before finalizing a creative brief. Additionally, build in time upfront for a question-and-answer session.

A good agency knows that time is of the essence, but makes them refrain from spinning their wheels and misinterpreting messages because the creative brief process was rushed. Always allow time to revisit the creative brief and course correct if there is a strategic change in direction.

4. Standardize and streamline the approval process. Establish clear ownership of the approval process. Assign one individual to gather insight from internal stakeholders, apply updates, and manage version control. Also, allow plenty of time to hold the necessary review cycles and seek approvals multiple times from all levels (from the various roles on the marketing team up to the CMO or CEO in smaller organizations) throughout the process. Finally, one person should take the lead, own the message, and present the final brief to your ad agency.

Bad briefs are a lose-lose proposition, frustrating both the agency and client while wasting time and money—including agency rework, unnecessary meetings, conflicting strategic direction, and pointless complications.

Every project should start with a great brief.

Exceptional work never happens without one.

Well, not flavorful tasty creative results!


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