a good brief

Marketing briefs lay the framework for all initiatives and campaigns by giving clear direction to everyone involved. A good brief, although may take time to create, can be the difference between a success and failure. It makes the whole process streamlined by clarifying roles, objectives and eliminating confusion. There are two different types of briefs – one between a client and an agency and one that is within an agency. Both act as vessels for all relevant information in an easy to read format. 

The client-agency brief acts as a contract between the parties as the project should not start until all the information has been refined and approved by all. The brief will always contain basic information e.g., flighting, budget and key dates. Other information the document usually contains includes strategic objectives, target audience, the challenge and contextual background – helps the agency understand what is important to relay in communication.  

Sometimes the client produces a brief that needs to be challenged by the agency in order to produce a more impactful solution. Examples where this may happen is when the brief is too detailed and prescriptive and dictates a method based on previous successful campaigns, or when the brief is directed for multiple agencies with different disciplines so lacks some vital information to complete the request. In this case, the client will probably be looking for an inter-agency collaboration presented back in one meeting with a shortlist of ideas. An alternative approach to cross collaboration is for the client to brief one agency, usually the media one as they devise the overall strategy and plan, who will then brief other relevant agencies with what is necessary.  

A critical element to a brief is the KPIs/ objectives that the client wants to accomplish. If this is not present on the brief, then it could be best to work through this together with the client so that everyone is aligned and help frames the response. It also further cements the brief contract as there is a sense of accountability when you have formalised the objectives and what you hope to achieve.  

In briefs, the phrase quality over quantity has never been more true. A good brief should have a balance of necessary information but also be as short as possible to inspire thoughts and a broad scope. It should not repeat itself or have conflicting objectives. Often a good technique to rule out anything immediately is to include what not to do as a response. The six key components of a great brief are the: 

  • Challenge
  • Proposition
  • Vision
  • Objectives & Comms 
  • Audience 
  • Challenge 
  • Logistics  

A creative brief is fairly similar to a client-agency brief with a few other considerations. For one thing, it should not contain media jargon or assume knowledge of any context as the creatives may not have been in the client briefing calls. It is the brief’s job to make it as easy for the creatives as possible to become inspired – this may involve including additional research on competitors or just interesting titbits. However, it should not overwhelm the reader with vasts amount of information and should merely tell a story. The most important thing that a brief should do is exclude any ideas that forces them down a particular path i.e. build me a bridge vs get me across the river.

Just like the client-agency brief, there are core elements that need to be included. A lot of these overlap but here we reframe the brand so that it is personified – looking more at its tone, personality, essence and weaknesses. Other things to include are the target audience, the market barriers, consumer insight, disclaimers, reason to believe and most importantly, the proposition. The proposition is basically the tagline of the whole campaign, though there is no reason this cannot change when discussing it with the whole team in the early stages. It can be presented in multiple different forms – true insights, benefits, metaphors, consequences, challenging beliefs, attitude, reframe, territory or a feeling. 

A good brief contains all the critical information in a clear, inspirational fashion. It is the turning point between an unsuccessful, unambitious campaign, and a focused campaign that stays on track with budget and timings. 

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