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Great idea. Thanks for asking. I'm sure I'll refer back to this section again and again.

Following, a suggestion for a magical section simply and sweetly called "Anything Else?"

Description: "is there anything you (meaning the client) would like to get off your mind? Please let us know."

Why is this magical? Many times it keeps random - and even irrelevant ideas - from getting shoe-horned onto the rest of the brief where they don't belong. Also, it allows a client to formally communicate a seemingly small notion that nags at them or one they feel is a pov that would be helpful to the creatives -- and do it formally. Very comforting. It can also help make real, and perhaps previously ignorned, early warning signs of a brief not yet fully embraced by the client.


I asked a bunch of planning chums around the world a similar question recently. The best one back was from a brief highly recommended by a creative and from a very smart planner. It's quite visual, so I might put it on the flickr Planning Eye group. cheers

Hi Russell, i can tell this post is special, cause i´m a beliver in the inspiring creative briefs, my work is create the ads, but i dont belive in the formats, i think the format depends of the case. The formats are made to be flexibles, and the formats should be in services of the creative proccess…

"What"-"Who"-"How" structures. All very fine. What about brief attach? Should a planner provide the creative team with visual keys, creative references, competition commercials, category codes, etc.?

I would love it if in future we could have just 4 things to free up our thinking to allow media inclusive ideas to germinate. They would be:

1) What is the business problem/issue?
2) What is the marketing problem/issue?
3) What is the brand problem/issue/ambition?
4) What is the role of comms in this case?

Actually I would re-frame this with 'objective' as opposed to problem/issue - sounds too negative.


1) What is the business objective?
2) What is the marketing objective?
3) What is the brand objective?
4) What is the communications objective?

Everything else would be in the briefing NOT the brief - if that makes sense - otherwise it becomes unwieldly and unclear. If this is clear then the teams know exactly what is required in terms of expectations (like the brief you got for Honda) and can concentrate on making 'interesting' emotional communications that that illuminate the product or service and that require higher levels of neural processing.

As with others here, I'm a big fan of defining the marketing problem up front so that we don;t limit ourselves to comms solutions.

One other section I find useful is titled "How could we bring this to life?". We used this at Kirshenbaum Bond and it became the heart of the brief - lots of different ways in or points of inspiration (especially visual) that made the brief more intersting.

I think it’s amazing how many different labels people have for the same boxes in agency land! I was talking with a friend about this last night. We concluded that people have been writing the same stuff in near enough the same boxes for years.

It doesn't really matter what you call the boxes. Or even if you don’t use boxes at all. But as several people have already said it’s what you put in them that counts. The content to my mind needs do a couple of things (the below isn’t exhaustive):

- Be inspiring and interesting to the cleaver creative chaps/chapets.
- Be relevant and true to the audience.
- And of course relevant and true to the product or service.
- Be short and use simple, carefully chosen language

Past this labels and titles are just aid memoirs which – I guess and a little brain food/focus. It takes time to write a good brief that will result in good useful work. Good briefs are hard to write. If they weren’t they’d be no need for this post. Or planners?!?

- What is the problem?

- Why are we here?

- Why do we suffer?

- Mandatories

Perhaps some of you know the actant model from school. It was originally developed by structuralist A.J. Greimas to analyze fairytales, but it just occurred to me that it also covers the key elements of a creative brief.

There's a subject (your client or product), there's an object (increased market share or something), there's an opponent (noise/competition/indifference). It also has a helper, a sender and a receiver. You could have a look here to find out if this makes any sense to you at all:


In the perfect world, I have only one I would add.

Holier_than_cow hits close for me with his first one, and I love Claire’s thought. Both put the client and brand first.

So the simple question I always want to ask brand people first is:

Who are you as a brand?

If they can’t define their own identity, how can I, and how can the excellent questions in this thread be asked?

Everything flows from knowing who you are.

"Who are we?" is a good identity-check for agencies to ask themselves from time to time as well, but that’s for another time.

My preferred brief a thinking process best done together with client and creatives. This involves getting to an idea which works for target audience and brand in the same way. So:

what is the Commercial Objective? (always good to start with the money)

what barriers stand in the way of achieving that objective? (as many as possible please)

what are the audience debates? (loads of stuff going on in the lives of the audience, the things they are talking about which may remotely relate to this market)

What is the common enemy? (looking at all those barriers and debates, thinking about the commercial objective, can you start to make connections? Express this as an enemy. e.g. for IKEA it may be tradition)

What is our Common Purpose?
(mutually beneficial state of affairs for both brand and audience e.g Dirt is good, Campaign for Real Beauty; Think Different, Sort Your Life Out)

I got to this brief by decoding what went on in the mind of our creative director when he solved problems.

The original 'hair-brained' St Luke's brief that John Grant refers to was: What is the Problem? and What is the Solution? He came up with it so it wasn't that hair-braineed really.

It was a fun way to write briefs and I still use it sometimes. It demands an idea. Which we called How. ie how are we going to solve this. In turn, this meant that the planner had to talk to the creatives, the media planner and whoever else might be involved such as an event organiser and a pr person before writing the brief - which.

Actually, it should work well as a media neutral brief nowadays....

For me, the HolyCow and Mark nailed it. Russell's hit on this before, too.

I believe that we should be changing more than a few boxes on the brief - we should be shifting the conversation to start with business issues - really getting under the skin of the problem.

A lot of the time, briefs seem to focus too much on the solution and not enough on the problem we're solving. The discussions with creatives start too late and we let ourselves get boxed in by agreeing too much up front.

I'd argue that we make arbitrary decisions some of the time - we choose strategies and propositions based on the group involved and a concensus of what will be most successful.
The single-minded proposition brief format requires this sacrifice!

But, can any of us (including planners) realistically know what any single proposition will produce creatively?

And, aren't we fueling the move to the brief being a 'work order' form or a creative contract?

In short, the creative brief should be retired as an agency/client contract and replaced by a marketing brief of some sort that really identifies the issues, the objectives and the evidence available... Maybe it needs to reference any early thoughts and any existing equities, but it shouldn't fixate on a single proposition.

Then, the creative brief (and the briefing that accompanies it) becomes an internal springboard designed SOLELY to producing ideas against the problem... and can evolve throughout a process when it's a major brand overhaul - or be quick and painless for a more "continuation" brief...

Be more fluid, more explorative and involve more creative discussion...

None of this is new - we all do it today when we pitch. We just tend to fall back into old habits and "process-driven" actions when we do our day-by-day jobs...

Just a point of view, but I do wonder sometimes if we aren't losing some of the exploration that used to exist before briefs became so 'rigorous.'

I agree with Simon.

The brief is a contract between agency and client.

The briefing is an ongoing conversation between planner and creative.

I'm late for the party but this really is a splendid idea.

Most of the classic stuff already figured largely in the above comments but recently (we're discussing brief templates - again...) I've been thinking of adding the obligation to start the brief without using words.

Just adding a place where you need to insert something non-wordy: an image, a photo, a doodle, a significant still from a clip or film you could show.

It doesn't really matter if you need to explain stuff afterwards (I'd reckon the explanation for the image would follow in the usual briefing tickboxes).

Looking for some significant visual forces you to make choices before briefing: what's the most inspiring part and what do I search a representation for? Business problem, target insights, product characteristics, cultural relevance,...

The last one might be a special one to add to briefings: why is this service or product actually relevant in today's world? Why would you want to make a film about it?

I agree that it's really important to start with defining who we're talking to, what we're saying and why we believe in.. but as a young enthusiastic ex quantie, I try to work with the creatives to give them interesting things that might help.. it could be a picture, sthg i read on a blog, an insight from a U&A, a piece of music or a quote. I do try not to overload them with too much crap tho. I like what one of the post says, quoting jon steel about being both creative and brief. sometimes agency formats can be too dry and i think it's up to the planner to add USEFUL zest, give the creatives a chance to produce something they believe in.. not just sthg that we feel the client will buy... it's hard to do that everytime but we try

Recently helped a client devise a paper brief. Spoke to their creative agencies who told me they were fed up with the client demanding funky daring ads, then would only sign off something 'safe' (Shock horror). So to get the client to state up-front how funky they are ready to be, I devised a complex visual scale (1 being safe to errrrrr 10 being 'crazy funky'!) so the client can put a circle round the number of their choice. Outcome? Seemed to work. Clients became more honest about what they desire versus what they are ready to sign off. Agencies had a chance to focus their energies better. On paper this sounds restricting, but in practice it has worked pretty well.

Another thought, with my citizensound hat on, is for a brief to contain sonic direction. All too often, sound is an after-thought, yet it has such immense power in the emotional connection with a brand. So a Sonic Brief is one I would add into the mix!

Spot on phil!
In my experience the marketing/business brief is the most useful route for clients.
Creative briefs are internal summaries.
And as always, it all comes comes down to quality of people.
As long as the quality/depth of thinking by the client is high, and the advice from the agency suit to the client is professional, the magic to win over consumers will emerge from the planners and creatives... documents are just practical necessities to help keep our noses pointing in the same direction.

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