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Best New Thinking Winner 2010

Kata No. 6

Kata No. 6 What’s the point of a creative brief?

This kata is designed to get you thinking about what a creative brief is intended to achieve – there’s a lot more to creative briefing that writing a form..

1. How does the brief fit with the production process?

Planning Directors love fiddling with creative briefing formats. I’ve had a tinker myself in my time. But actually it’s quite easy to change the format but much more difficult to change the way work is produced. What usually happens is that people try the new format and the new process for a couple of weeks, then they go back to using the new format and the old process. And roughly two weeks after that they will tell you the new format doesn’t work and can they go back to the old one? Give a gold star to your planning director for every week the new process is used with the new format. And give them a gold raspberry if they change the format but don’t attempt to change the process. Development in most agencies follows a process created by the industrial revolution. 21st century? – give me a break we’re just entering the 19th!

2. Is the brief about what people are supposed to make or how they are supposed to think?

Apparently it takes 7 days of meditation and fasting for an orthodox monk to paint an icon. Creative briefs have been known to take longer! The resulting brief can be such a load of w*** if you’ll pardon the expression that it is unusable by anyone else. The other extreme is the amended work brief (seen many of those?) which says see attached creative brief but otherwise could you move the headline about the budgie 27 picas to the left. Despite my cracks about Victorian working practices the brief is specify what work needs to be done. If it isn’t clear what is being asked for then you may be sure, that’s what you’ll get! So you have to specify an outcome. A lot of questions are designed to make the person writing the brief think. Technically if your brain is switched on you don’t have to write down how you got there and how clever you’ve been.

3. Is the brief supposed to be shut ended or open ended?

Yup be specific but don’t be a bore. Anybody can write a specification sheet or tender document. You want people to create something better than you could have done yourself (otherwise why ask them to do it?). Briefs ought to be openended and to push the envelope. Just don’t be clever – See 2 above)

4. Should the brief be comprehensive or need to know?

Perpetual debate this one. The problem I have with long briefs is that they turn into essays that no one reads. Have you ever seen a creative read a brief? They read the Requirement first to argue why telly isn’t on and can they have a go anyway on the grounds that if it’s good we can talk the client into it. Proposition next so they can say it’s crap and they can’t work to it. Then the Support to the proposition because it gives them ideas about better propositions you should have given them in the first place. So I’d say brevity because it gives you a better chance of being read. Planners love writing long briefs but NOBODY but NOBODY reads them.

5. Should the brief be designed to make the client buy the work.

I’ve been on the IPA account directors course where they use creative briefs as hatchets to cut clients down to size. “Sorry I must have missed something” Pause for effect. “You did approve the brief didn’t you?” Another pause “And do you agree that the work is on brief?” Cheerful glance/ casual laugh ” so you’re saying you agree with the brief, the work is on brief but you don’t like the creative work? Is that it” (client starts to protest) “Or is it that you don’t think the work we’ve shown you will do the job? (client agrees that the work will indeed do the job) ” So in summary the work is on brief and will do the job but you personally don’t like it?” (client sits there resigned) ” “Excellent it looks as though we have a result then.” While there are account handlers around (bless their white cotton socks) creative briefs will always be used as a blunt instrument to sell the work. Roll with it!

6. Should the brief motivate?

Yes yes and yes again. Damien O’Malley has a purple passage in the first APG Blue Book now sadly out of print where Michaelangelo is given the creative brief to paint the roof of the Sistine Chapel. The best brief is clearly the one that inspires him. Open ended is not enough – it has to push beyond comfort boundaries. After all you still have to be able to recognise that the work is on brief when you see it. But motivation is probably the most important quality of a brief or a briefing. I used to evaluate the effectiveness of my creative briefs by how fast the creatives walked out of the briefing room. If the briefing was any good they ran – how they hate discussing their initial ideas in the open!

7. Can you write a brief that covers all communication channels?

Er um It has been tried many times. The short answer is no. You can write a brand brief that looks at how the brand functions but it won’t be sufficient to brief communications. Each discipline warrants their own brief because they are trying to achieve different things. I’ve seen two types of all round brief. A brand brief with a short advertising tail. And an advertising brief which has been given a brief rubdown and requirements for DM/interactive and so forth added in. It just looks like what’s left after the ad boys have had their fill. The ideal is to write a brand brief that can cover full remit of what the brand needs to achieve across all channels then write channel specific briefs for advertising, DM and so on that provides the specific requirement and parameters and motivation for each communications discipline.







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