Firstly, let's get one thing straight. Most agencies have their own proprietary briefing document, with it's own little twist, like BBH's 'brand DNA' or the way JWT doesn't have a proposition section, it has a take-out section instead.
But in reality, it doesn't matter where you work, a creative brief covers the same things. That's what we'll go over. But before we do, here's a few general pointers.
- It's called creative BRIEF for a reason. Take the time to write less. Keep it as short as you can. It forces you think hard about condensing lots complication into something that can be expressed easily as creative work. If you can't get it into a page, how can they get it into a poster? Creatives don't want to read briefs. Nine times out of ten, they read the objective and the proposition and get on with it. To have any chance of them going further, it needs to be short. Edit, precis, distill.
"Destabilize the competition by making this shaving brand appeal to a more younger demographic who tend to find beards distasteful"
"Make beards uncool"
- It also needs to be written in simple language. It's a reference point, not a client document. Avoid complicated words and overlong prose. Creatives do not talk like clients, they talk like creatives. Write in that language.
- And work really hard on making it interesting. Write beautifully. Creatives won't just be working on one brief, they will have lots on. You want them to pay extra attention to yours, so make it inspirational. Not just information. This is your ad to sell your thinking to the creatives, so get them itching to start scribbling on the layout pad. Words are like little bombs that go off in their heads. Choose them well. And they'll appreciate you making the effort.
- And don't spend too long thinking about what you'll put. Just start. Your first draft will be less than perfect, but once you have something wrong, you can start making it right. Most briefs start with an objective, but you don't have to do that bit first. Fill out the bit that's easiest for you first, which will start to overlap into another one, then do that. Next thing you know, you've written most of the whole thing.......but it could connect better. So start refining and you're well on your way.
- So that means giving yourself plenty of time to write it. Like Rousseau (was it him?) said about a letter, "Sorry it's so long, I didn't have the time to make it any shorter".
- Ask yourself, would my Mum get it? Show it to someone else- does it make sense to them. And give it the overnight test if you can.
So here are the components:
Get the problem/opportunity worked out
I don't mean the business problem, I mean the strategic problem. Like Skoda's realising the badge was acceptable now, but no one knew enough about the cars.
Thinking this way also opens up more media options too, and avoids the usual 'The answer is advertising, now what's the question'.
I really like the 'Nike dance' work which is born out of an objective to connect with women who think Nike is macho and not for them - even though they're athletes as well. And the recent Air Max work which was intended to take Nike Air out of pure fashion and back into proper athletics gear.
Define your target audience
I don't mean spew out endless demographics. I mean get down what you know about them that will help solve the problem. Put down what they think of the category, the brand, the product and how they'll interact with the media choice, but only in the context of "We know this which will help you crack the brief".
Coming back to Skoda, the insight was that enough people wanted to buy one, but they were stopped by OTHER people taking the piss.
Harvey Nichols exploited the fact that they're customers were full on fashion addicts that would do anything for the latest styles.
I always like this British Airways comparison:
Anyone considering taking a flight in the next six months.
ving them down.
"British opinion formers who are highly cynical, speak loudly over other people at dinner parties and express their opinions as fact.
Unlike almost any other country in the world, rather than talk up national success stories they delight in knocking them down".
Some lucky buggers are born proposition writers. I'm not. And you know what? it doesn't matter. If the rest of the brief it littered with gold, it doesn't matter. Every section of the brief should be making the same point anyway. On fact, if you really want them to use an idea, it can be useful to bury it somewhere else in the brief. Let them find it for themselves, berate you for not having a clue what works and what doesn't and then use it.
But you do have to do them. Some agencies will call them 'core thought' or 'creative challenge'. But they are in there somewhere. Try and avoid writing a headline- just put down the main thing you want the work to communicate. Look for twists. Keep them simple. These are some I've liked:
The Olympics is made of heroes
Ben and Jerrys - homefangled ice cream
It depends on where you work, but some places work to 'task based propositions'. They work well for a bit more creative freedom, and when you have something more complex and meaty to get across.
Make the reliability of the Civic desirable rather than dull
And if you're stuck, you can always resort to the liberating 'not'.......
Here's a proposition checklist:
Can you write an ad from it? I'm not suggesting DO creative creative starters - you may get thrown out of the room, though it depends on your relationship. Just know you can do one. If you can do a bad idea, they'll be able to a great. AS LONG AS YOU CAN SEE LOTS OF IDEAS FROM YOUR PROPOSITION - NOT JUST ONE!
Why is that different?
Now it depends where you work. You may have to explicitly state why your thinking differentiates from the competition, but in any case, it should be weaved into your brief. In many cases, disrupting the market can be your primary objective, especially if your a challenger brand. It's a good source of ideas for the creatives too.
Like this VW Golf ad that wants to destabilise other brands that need to try too hard.
Or this Natwest work that focuses on how dreadfully the market treats its customers.
And then you come to the support
This is important on one level, since you need to prove your thinking. "Creative people, you can believe this is the right thing to do because.." But it's also a great place for them to find ideas - and for you to bury some ideas. Some people write tons for this bit. I try and write it as if it was the body copy for a press ad - that forces me to keep in only what's relevant, and make it short.
Most of the thinking for this ad went into the support - since it was the slices of real life that made people's REAL relationships with beds come to life.But it was too executional to put anywhere else.
And now tone of voice
That's how to deliver the message, it's usually the brand values and it's nearly always the neglected part. That's partly down to it being very hard to put into words, and partly because it's never easy persuading a creative team to deliver their work in a certain way.It's not so bad if you work on a brand with a strong, long term, clear vision - but not if you don't. In any case, just like body language, most of how people process ads is down to the tone and manner, so it's crucial you get it right. Much of that is briefing it right, and getting the right stimulus. But it starts with the right words. I find it easier to think of the kind of person the brand is and describe that. Avoid contradictions - like 'confident, but shy', and don't make it CLEAR. Like:
Honda - optimism
Senokot - Intimate mentor
Ben and Jerrys - Unassuming, conversational, generous, local and, above all, professionally amateur
By now you should be checking your logic and making sure it all pulls together. If it doesn't - rewrite. And if it does, make it shorter.
And then finally, it's the mandatories
Lets be clear on this - this is only what MUST happen, and what MUST NOT. Not what you want to happen, or what YOU THINK the client wants. I think it's anything that will get the work dismissed out of hand - which creatives need to know. When 99% of your work ends up in the bin, you don't want to lose it on something you should have been warned about. Just make sure you say if it's something the client wants or not, and what you think they want.
And your done. Doing briefs is hard, but it can be the most rewarding part of your job, apart from seeing the work that springs from it. Good luck!
Next time we'll be going over the briefing. Should have been this week, but that's life.