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Can't crack a creative idea? Before you blame the agency, you should take another look at your brief

Updated: Apr 30, 2019

You’ve been through multiple rounds of creative development, and you just aren’t cracking the brief? Your agency and your team are frustrated. Tensions are running high.


As the client, you may be questioning your agency's ability to deliver what you had in mind. In some instances this may well be the case but before you call it quits, take another look at your brief, because there is a good chance it is the cause.


A good, honest review will probably reveal one of two potential problems:

1. the length and detail of the brief means it is too open to (incorrect) interpretation by the agency.

2. the language used or the depth of the insights in the brief aren't inspiring enough to spark the distinctive ideas you are seeking.


As always, The Marketoonist has perfectly articulated this in his latest post





Problem 1: Your brief is too long and over-complicated.


The longer the brief, the more open to (incorrect) interpretation

A brief is called a brief for a reason, and it needs to be succinct for two purposes - agency interpretation & consumer comprehension.


The brief needs to be succinct to give the agency a clear understanding of the job to be done. I have seen and heard of briefs being up to 25 pages long full of buzzwords, data and 'context'. However, this level of detail leaves the brief open to interpretation, and there’s more than one way to cook an egg. The agency may take a different message away than you intended.


From a consumer perspective, we all know that communication needs to be single-minded and meaningful to cut-through and be understood. So choices need to be made when writing the brief to ensure you are only asking the agency to get one, clear message across.


There may be several consumer groups you could target or multiple solutions you could offer them, but you need to choose the one most likely to make an impact. The one that will best solve your consumer's problems and drive them to take the intended action, ie to buy your brand.


Tip - it REALLY helps to have the agency involved in making this choice. They are the communication experts and will help you decide what consumers want to hear…….not what you want to tell them.



Problem 2: Your brief is bland and uninspiring.


You want to write a brief that creatives fight to work on

Your brief needs to inspire creatives and act as a springboard for ideation that delivers their best work. You want the top creatives in the agency fighting to work on your brief and not be the brief that sits in a pile of procrastination.


This inspiration generally comes from new, juicy insights that have dug deeper than ubiquitous, surface level observations. Insights that are meaningful and invoke a reaction. Insights that are consumer-centric and free from marketing jargon. Insights that articulate a REAL problem that a piece of communication can solve.


Tip - If you are unsure about what will inspire your creative teams, ask them! Show them your insights and get their feedback. They can help you dig deeper to find the gold nugget.


Are you sitting on a brief that just isn't delivering the work you hoped for? Or do you have a new brief to write? Try working through these six steps to write or stress test your brief

6 Steps to Writing a Succinct & Inspiring Brief


1. Be really clear on why you are writing the brief and the results you need the work to achieve. We advertise to grow brands. Your agency needs to know what your end game is. How will you ultimately measure the success of their work? What is the scale and impact expected from the the work? Which needle do you need to move and by how much? Some people will be reading this tip thinking it is a given ......but it is often forgotten or really unclear.


2. Your description of your target audience should be rich with attitudinal and behavioural insight, not just a demographic profile. It should also clearly outline the degree of knowledge and interest they have of the brand/category and the mindset they will be in when they receive your communication .eg Where do they sit in the awareness to adoption journey? Will they be open & receptive to the messages or do they have significant barriers that need to be overcome?


3. You have identified an unmet need or problem to be solved and have dug deep enough to articulate the REAL cause of the problem, in a way that inspires the creative team to develop ideas that get noticed. Consumers are more likely to listen to brands who 'get them' so communication is significantly more effective when you demonstrate a deeper level of understanding and empathy.


4. Your solution to this problem and your key communication message is meaningful to consumers. It must also be credible and backed by strong reasons to believe. This is where you will need to make a choice to be single-minded and not include a laundry list of possible rational and emotional benefits. You must choose the message that will inspire consumers to take the action you desire.


5. The outcome you want from the communications is clear. That is the specific behaviour or attitude change you want the campaign to deliver? This is critical as agencies will need to gauge how emotionally charged or functionally straight forward the communication needs to be. It will determine if the communication needs to leave you with a greater affinity towards the brand or if a specific call to action is required.


6. The intended tone and personality are distinctive and authentic. To ensure the agency response is “on brand” you need to give a clear description of who your brand is and how it behaves. A brands personality and the tone of their communication is a key strategic tool helping build brand meaning and distinction, so don't just fill this line in with a few commonly used adjectives. Bring your brand to life and support it with imagery.


To get you started, we are giving you access to our Creative Brief planning tool. Just subscribe here to get the password to our free Tools & Tips page.


The tool is a simple, practical way to address the Six Steps, think logically and make choices to ensure your next creative brief is succinct & inspiring. Make sure you complete this tool with simple, consumer-centric language to aid agency comprehension & inspiration


Then how you bring it to life when you brief your agency is up to you......but remember to engage them by telling them a story, take them on a journey and excite them for what is possible. But remember, it is a SHORT STORY, not a novel!


Perhaps you’d like some help reviewing your briefs? If so, then please get in touch anne@viamarca.com.au. We can either run a workshop on a specific brief or hold a team training session on creative brief writing where we dig deeper into the tools, tips and processes for making choices to write inspiring and succinct briefs. We will work on your live briefs, and you will be given tools and tips that are yours to keep for future briefs.

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