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I dunno Paul. This is an interesting one.

1. What is the business objective
2. How do you want to measure the objective
3. How do you define success via the metric?

I think that is it.

If you need a good example of a brand guideline for creative...I'll send a couple over to your contact.

I think the very first thing that clients need to address at the start of every brief, is the business challenge. An honest, truthful, and hard look at the situation that they're in and what the overall business problem is. The business challenge is not "hey, we don't know how to make a TV spot, so that's why we need you to make one for us that is better than our competition." ;)

I've seen a lot of business challenges disguised as a strate-cution statement. I got one recently that read, "How can we generate excitement and trial for our new product with a compelling consumer promotion?" How many of these have we seen before? It does not provide the creative problem solvers an understanding of what we're up against.

A better business challenge would have been something like this: "we're coming in late into a highly saturated and me-too marketplace with our new product. How can we generate awareness and trial for our product?"

An also important factor in a client briefing is that clients have to think about what they promise/communicate to consumers. And that they don't want to promise/communicate more than 1 message. Keep it single-minded and plan more campaigns/project for different messages/promises.

I think that the three basic objectives listed above are good from a pure business strategy perspective. I would add that a client-oriented creative/design brief has to address communication goals as well, in addition to presenting the audience profile in a succinct, clear way.

I would only add one thing to what has been already said:

Be honest regarding your product's strengths and weaknesses. Don't expect any advertising campaign to be successful if it's built on lies.

There are a few things that can paint a the bigger picture that rarely (if ever) get discussed:

1. What is the context of the brief? Is it to address a market opportunity, defend a position against a competitor, or reverse slowing take-up? Simply saying "sell xxx widgets" is relevant but surely there is a bigger reason.

2. What specifically do you want the customer to do - and how will they communicate with you?

3. Can you facilitate multiple channel customer engagement - that is, can the customer access the product in a way that suits them or are there physical limitations for product access/use?

4. What are the actual numbers (sales, engagement, usage etc) needed for the campaign to be considered a success? What value per product outcome will the company derive and how many need to be sold to achieve the target set by the organisation (in reference to Point 1 above)?

5. How does this fit with the overall strategic plan of the particular division of the organisation - is there a way that a broader activity could be more beneficial?

6. What is the one thing that is important - above all else. Not a single minded proposition that has a range of topics and multiple bullet points!

And as for evaluating the creative idea - generally the one that the client doesnt connect with (as they aren't the target audience!!!!)

The IPA published a booklet called 'A best practice guide on how to brief communications agencies'.
This already a bit old (2003) but maybe still a useful piece to build upon.
Here's the link:

All - Thank you very much for the thoughtful comments and links. I talked with my friend last night and he's very excited about the response so far. Please keep them coming.

Also, for others interested in these topics, and per Birgit's comment, there is an IPA booklet on how to judge creative ideas here: http://rurl.org/139t

Sharing thoughts on the use of the word "Objectives," and "strategy" as it relates to ad/creative briefs...

The "objective" is what the cumulative effect of the advertising program/creative should be. The objective should not be to "gain awareness" of to "increase share." Those are media and marketing objectives...rather, this objective is something that affects or impacts the consumer's attitude or usage habits.

An agency client is one of the largest CPG companies out there... and they crack us up with their use of the word "strategy" more than GW Bush has the past 8 years.

so here's my advice - don't do what they do. Instead, think of the whole brief as a strategic document. Too many times we've been handed briefs which, after listing the objectives, etc, they say: "What is the Strategy?" ... to make matters worse, they follow that up with this answer (taken from actual client brief): "Use (insert brand name)'s logo with this tag line."

My belief is that strategy isn't something you Q&A in one bullet on the brief, but instead a sum of all the work and collaboration that IS the brief. By reading the brief you get a handle for the strategy behind the brand/action.

Additionally, leave "tone" and "manner" statements out of the brief. As usually written, they are meaningless. If the rest of the document (the strategy as a whole) is clear, then these statements are unnecessary and confusing. Tone and manner of your ads/creative grow out of the brand's personality, an intimate understanding of the prospect, and product positioning.

Thanks all for your contributions. In sum, they hit on most all of the parts of the presentation as constructed for our training. You've provided many great insights and resources. It's an excellent dialogue that can only help clients be better for agencies, which ultimately provides for better work and more sales.

Thanks again.

Gerry "The Client"


ISBA in the UK (the trade body for advertisers) and they have a series of publications for their members.


We've got them somewhere so let me know if you want them?



I'd recommend Jon Steel's great book "Truth Lies & Advertising," specifically Chapter 5 (The Fisherman's Guide - The Importance of Creative Briefing). All you need to know is there.

Without reaching over to my bookshelf, I recall the basics: A great brief should inspire, first and foremost. A brief is a transitional document, designed to cause great advertising to appear. So, make sure what you're writing actually gets people's pulses racing, gets the blood flowing, motivates people. If all you've written is a blunt statement of facts and opinions, then you have no right to expect anything but the same from an agency or creative team.

And a creative brief can take any form it needs to. There are no rules. Whatever works, works. And maybe that means no briefing document per se, but a conversation or tour or a video or a book. As an example from the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Reebok's the official sponsor. Nike's (meaning W+K's) challenge: Usurp.

Legend has it the brief had one sentence: "Sport is War, minus the killing."

But it really boils down to effort. Again, what you, the creative brief writer puts in equals what might come out. If you just fill in the blanks, so will the people charged with making something from your brief.

Hope this helps.


I have a pretty good creative brief template I've used for years. It poses almost all the important questions..but the trick behind a good brief in complete and well thought out answers. Email me if you'd like a copy

When I was client side at ConAgra Foods, the one thing I stressed and promised to my agencies was that I would NEVER try to measure the creative product as it was being evaluated. My job was to:

1. Give them all the information
2. Share/recommend what I'd like to see
3. Empower them to leverage the information and their skills to deliver the goods

Additionally we had a VERY open door environment. They were able to share work that was very much in progress to gain some opinions up-front. I respected and understood that I was viewing work in progress.

This approach worked extremely well. It produced great experiences and saved dollars and time because we didn't focus on the irrelevant, we focused on making the work great.

One more thought to add to the pile: In a situation where the agency will develop a creative brief off of the client brief, I believe that the client brief should focus less on the communication and more on the context of what it needs to do. In my experience, there are 3 contexts to every ad.

1. The Business Strategy ... or "we need to sell X widgets/take pricing/etc. by '09 due to XYZ reason"
2. The Marketing Strategy ... or "increase awareness of these key attributes amongst this key target"
3. The Ad Strategy ... or "the key consumer insight is X and the best way to leverage that is Y"

To me, a good client brief gives you the Business and the Marketing Strategy in a succinct, direct, no bullshit sort of way. That way, the agency is empowered to develop a great Ad Strategy that works the way it's supposed to in the form of a great creative brief.

One more thing - honesty about what type of creative output is desired, acceptable and unacceptable is valuable and rare from clients. You get the work you ask for. Give your agencies a comfort zone to work within, with some actual examples of stuff that might fly and definitely won't fly. A good shop will inevitably try to stretch your comfort zone, but will also deliver some work within it as well.

Wow, nice work Paul. Some valuable thoughts here.
I'll add my own perspective, and please forgive me if I only end up repeating what has been said before...

The most important thing for all to remember - marketers, strategic planners, and other creative thinkers - is that creativity is a misunderstood animal.
(And I focus on creativity because I believe that that is the number one quality an advertising agency can provide to its client partners.)

Creativity is not a stage in a process. it is THE process. It doesn't happen when the layout pads get dusted off, it's a constant lateral discipline all the way through, from client chairman to agency producer. Many of the creative people I admire are not called creatives, they're called entrepreneurs - people such as Robert Stevens at Geek Squad.

While I agree with all the above comments about not prescribing bridges and so on... it's another matter all together to actually pull this off in the real world. Finding the people who are not only trained lateral thinkers, but who also have a head and stomach for business, is not an easy task.

Something else creativity is not, as many suggest through their behavior and legacy business models, is something fragile to be protected at all costs. Rather, it is more nimble and powerful than any of its enemies (time, budget, committee etc). Perhaps creativity's only true kryptonite-enemy is fatigue. And that can be cured with fresh legs and copious amounts of caffeine.

So, my advice, based upon a history of successful and unsuccessful briefs, is this:

1. Make sure you're briefing the right people. Out-and-out specialists don't work in today's world. The people you need at the table have to be creative, strategic, and business focused. All three. All in each person. All engaged in your challenges.

2. Let it all hang out. Warts and all. Don't try to 'control' the bedlam that exists within every business. It will only conceal the shoals in the water. Again, creativity is a more nimble creature than anyone gives it credit. Lay the whole scene out, in all its complexity, and let creativity find the path.

3. One enemy of fresh, relevant solutions is the constant layering of interpretations from various steps in the development process. By the time a brief makes it to an agency, it might already have been through a number of iterations, each time being added on to by someone naturally inclined to prove their worth to the company. By all means, have opinions, but also allow your agency team to see the naked, original facts on the ground.

4. Lay out some very real goals. Not fantasy real ones. Realistic real ones. And don't be afraid to make them the same ones you, personally, are being measured on for your own performance. Assuming that the reason those bonus measures are there is that they're important company goals.

5. Dust off all your research. How much money have you spent on research over the last few years? Make a return on every cent by putting all that paper on the table, even if it's information that has since been discredited, or was authored by an unpopular figure, etc etc. Again, you don't know - no one knows - the connections that creativity will find. That's it's job.

6. Be real with your agency partners. Don't say you're looking for the next Nike or Xbox or Apple, when you know you can only gain internal consensus for something more conservative or traditional. In fact, I would say don't even have this conversation. Brilliant ideas aren't brilliant because they're brilliant, but because they solve tough problems. Solve the problem, let the solution speak for itself as a consensus maker.. and if other marketers start referring to your communications in THEIR agency briefs, pat yourself on the back and go ask for a raise.

That's it for now on the question of briefing. If your friend is interested, I'll come back and add some thoughts on how to judge a creative idea (a much trickier subject, methinks).

If you're the client, be a client, not an art director. Good clients are often brave, they understand that opinions are like arseholes etc, they agree with Dan Wieden that real innovation is more likely to make you go 'huh?' than 'wow!', and if the work is crap then they're as much to blame as anyone at the agency. As a client, the only thing you should know for sure is where you are now and where you want to be. If you try to spoonfeed instructions on how they should get there, you'll most likely end up with a rickety old bridge (when they may have built you a floating gin palace filled with happy pills and movie stars).

Dear Paul, Dear Gerry,

I think this is a very valuable discussion and I wish there were more clients open to discuss their working base with the agency.

To all the great previous thoughts I just would like to add one thing: I observed during the last 10 years, that clients become more and more unsure about what they want. Very often, the client's internal organization - especially within big companies - doesn't allow marketing departments to see the big picture. And sometimes even worse, the clients team doesn't share the same opinion about the objectives and the measurable goals. So what I experience quite often is, that the brief is written so broadly that you can almost do anything from it. Also, I am very often surprised how little the client understand their target group and that they don't accept measures to narrow the work down. And even if you have managed to convince your main contact person to make the brief more to something that tells a consistently story, as soon as you present to the whole group, you are on the same crossing than previously. So my wish would be: One voice, one opinion and one clear thinking to your agency partner!

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