You may remember that the APSOTW project finished a few weeks back, but didn't quite conclude. We had some great entries by all, but no clear winner. So we opened up a new round.
The challenge was for everyone to take their thinking, think about the feedback and bring their strategy to life in a creative brief.
No small task, since a creative brief is really hard to write anyway, writing one for cultural strategy is doubly so, since the sames principles of clarity, brevity and insipration still apply, as they do to all briefs, but you're trying to condense something which is probably richer and meatier than the usual.
I often think the best planners are genuises of compression, they can pack masses of depth into very small spaces, which in turn, enables creatives to do the same.
Not everyone who did round 1 has had time to do a brief, but it's so great that most of the orginal entrants have.
In addition, Carol wanted to have a go. Since she didn't do KOS, I challenged her to write a brief for a sports drink for women made from natural ingredients. Tough since I was asking for brand new thinking AND that thinking compressed.
Everyone already had indivudual feedback via email. What follows is a direct cut and paste from this. Forgive some crap grammar and spelling. I wanted to be thorough, I didn't want to keep people waiting and I have both a job and a 2 year old little boy (not to mention heavilly pregnant wife), I just haven't the time for slavish checking. Hopefully it all makes sense.
Before we move to the feedback, I want anyone reading this to remember these are junior planners, if planners at all. They're not given much chance to write briefs, they're busy doing lots of legwork for their bosses, or doing their day job. So DO admire what they've done. The quality of their writing and their thinking is streets ahead of many account handlers who think they can do strategy and then stimulate the creative process. I think it's better than many planners too.
You can see they've worked hard and, when it comes to creatives, that's half the battle. If they think you've made an effort to give them a good springboard, they're much more likely to return the favour.
That's why the briefing matters so much. Make it inspiring, make it memorable, make it look like you've thought about it and tried to make it interesting. Never, ever, just read out the brief. Please.
The brief is a summary of strategy. It's there so anyone can refer back to it to it to understand what the creative work is supposed to achieve and how you've all agreed to approach it. It's the agreed criteria for how you will judge ideas in a creative review. But remember, creatives work to a brief not FROM it. Creative work should build on the great start you've given them, not be constricted to follow it to the letter.
So the principles for judging the entries were pretty straight forward:
Level of clarity and brevity
Level of inspiration
Quality of writing and overall style.
With clarity and brevity, I don't mean mindless, brutal simplicity, a brief should be as long as it needs to be. I mean a creative knows exactly what is expected of them with no confusion or misunderstanding. I mean writing in plain human, rather than marketing speak. Here's a secret, long words and academic language don't make you look clever, they make you look like you're trying too hard and, at the worse, stupid.
This wasn't a task about pure strategy, it was about bringing strategy to life.Inevitably though, thoughts on thinking have made their way into the mix. With good reason. Slavishly trying to write a single minded, 'messaging' proposition isn't necessarily the best way to do a brief as we learn more and more that brands and communcations are more about feelings and associations, and because great work comes from having great problems to solve.
My view is a 'role for communications', 'task based proposition' or 'take-out or resulting behaviour' are far more useful. It's a bit more 'open' and generates the 'how we say' at least as much as the 'what we say' which is critical. In fact, messaging is now suspected to get in the way of effectiveness. BUT, it is critical that communications has a very single-minded, clear and, hopefully, gripping inspiring task. The resulting communications might be complex and meaty, but the job it's doing must be simple and clear.
Like I said, a brief is a summary of strategy, if it's not clear or there are some contradictions, it tends to mean there are some knots in the strategy. So it has been impossible not to have an element of judging strategy within judging the clarity and simplicity.
But it's not all boring simpleness and logic. Because somewhere in the strategy there needs to be a leap of imagination, some spark of inspiration...an idea...this is true of the brief. A great brief is a springboard to great work. The clarity should mean that even my Mum should be able to have an ideas that's on brief, but it needs to generate work that isn't just right, it's INTERESTING, it makes people take notice, it makes people think. It should not just enable creatives to do work from it, it should make them want to get out their layout pad straight away and pull an all nighter. It should not just enable someone to see one idea, it should create the possibility of many.
So that's why a beautifully written document is a must. Something you want to read. The sad fact is that creatives skim briefs for a propositon/task/challenge, then starts work, then they read a bit more if and when the well runs dry. You need to make them WANT to read the whole document, litter the whol thing with gold, even bury creative starters in the support.
So that's what the work is judged against and why. Now, to the feedback...........
First some general points. The standard of writing was really high. Without exeption,everyone was showing promise in the trick of taking the time to write less, and making those words count. Really good.
Overall, found that most work has a level of ambiguity or contradiction. I found again and again that I was being asked to do more than one task, or I was a little unsure of what that task was. Not badly, if I was a creative I think I could quickly get going on something good. But I would probably get annoyed when there was some misunderstanding in a creative review between what you were looking for and what I've done. I think this is mostly down to some knots in the thinking.
But I really liked that in most cases, that thinking was brough engagingly to life, rather than a brutal exercise in spartan prose. I found myself wishing at times that people would write with a touch more humanity. I also found that at some points, people has edited too much and I wanted to know more had to guess. The rules of what to put into a brief are clear I think. Have they got enought to understand the task and get excited about solving it? Have they got enough to solve it brilliantly? It should be no more an no less than this. A times I found both too much and too little.Think of a brief like a good story, you need just enough background and context to make people care about the plot, but too much and no one can figure out what's going on, or can't be bothered to find out!
Finally. Every brief needs a focal point. It used to be the proposition and still is in many organisations. I liked that people experimented with roles for communications, creative challenges etc. But not having a proposition is not an excuse for avoiding a simple sentence that encapsulates. not just the brief, but the entire strategy.In too many cases, the pivotal sentence was too long,too wooly or asked for more than one thing. There are examples from great briefs in the feedback, please use these for inspiration.
Here is Carol's feedback (don't forget this is for a woman's sports drink)
Firstly, on your style. It’s really well written, it’s concise and it’s clear. Big thumbs up for this. Even better, it’s written in plain English rather than marketing speak, something too few planners seem to be able to do. You’ve already got the discipline of précis and brevity down, so well played.
Now for the content. First though. All briefs and briefings should be tailored to the type of creative who will get it. Many want a really good problem framed out and want to them collaborate on how to solve this. Others just want a clarity and not too much thinking – ‘fuck off and leave me to it’. I think your brief sets out the requirements well, it’s simple and clear, and there’s something great for the creatives to get hold of and bring to life. As I’ll go on to say, I’m not sure you’re pointing the creatives to this as well as you could, which is all to do with the order you’ve put your information in.
‘The product is’ a natural energy drink for women, made from fruits and water’….I’ve always liked the BBH discipline of defining the product and then defining the brand and this is both simple and clear
‘The brand is’ and encouraging supporting friend who helps you keep going….what I like about this is you have clearly defines a tone of voice/brand behaviour. It’s usually the weakest part of creative briefs and strategy in general. This is clear and gives me a clear picture of brand in my head. So great on style and approach, but I did wonder if this was memorable enough. Following on the thread of great briefs written by BBH (which I presume is the brief structure you’re following) this section usually has a memorable hook for creative to grip. For example, Boddingtons was something like ‘Smooth with a cheeky Mancunian twist’. While you’re clear, I’m not getting excited like I am about Boddingtons. This doesn’t always matter of course if the rest of the brief is littered with creative gunpowder, but worth thinking about nonetheless. What I do like is the idea of an energy drink that isn’t combative, aggressive or macho like the rest of the market, I really think the thought is there, possibly just needs expressing in a more inspiring way.
‘Why are we advertising’ To create a niche for an energy drink that is for women, in a highly competitive landscape of energy drinks with artificial ingredients….again, this is clear and frames a task, namely we have to launch a new drink for women in a fierce market. But really great briefs start with really great problems, usual the underlying behavioural problem that’s causing the business problem. For example, BBH asked creative to ‘make Axe part of the morning routine’ because Japanese guys only used it at night. I saw great brief for Crown Paint, who had lost share because no one was interested in the brand, that asked creative to inspire people to pick up a brush and get creative with their home. Many briefs don’t bother with a proposition, they just frame a great problem, usually calling it ‘role for communications’ (I like that you don’t have proposition and have a core take-out though). I just think you could make yours juicer. I think you have in your other content – you’re launching a natural energy drink in a market that’s mostly artificial, which probably means many will think it won’t work.
Nice, clear pen portrait of the audience. I suppose the only thing I’d consider would be adding a bit more about what they like about exercising. If we’re creating a niche, a challenger, these brands tend to share a provocative point of view with their audience. I’d be putting in clues to what that might be, for example, they might hate the macho bullshit of sport. It might be that they really struggle to fit a work out in their busy lives and don’t see why they should waste all that effort to be good then put artificial crap in their bodies. Maybe you’ve got it with ‘healthy inside and out’ but this seems a little ‘buried’, but I would still want to know what outlook on life they have that’s driving the desire for natural stuff – are they being pretentious bohemians? Are they gentle, back to nature types? Do they yearn for simpler times and natural stuff fills that need for them?
Then the crux of your brief. What do we want them to think? I’ve often favoured the approach of focusing on a ‘take-out’ rather than a proposition. I can be very liberating for creatives..as long as you create this impression, it’s up to you how you get there. I’ve often thought it lends itself to the essential non-verbal bits of communication too. However, if you’re going to replace a proposition with another focus, it’s still the crux of your brief, the part creatives will real first. As such it needs to go beyond simple and be interesting, thought provoking and memorable. I just don’t think what you’ve written does this. It’s clear and you can’t argue with it, which is a start, but at the moment, you’ve simply captured the product benefit. The challenge is how you make that interesting and relevant..that might come from how it’s made, the values of the company that make it, why the audience might care, it might even dramatise what the product isn’t. You’d be surprised how liberating the word ‘not’ is. For example, ‘not artificial’ ‘not macho’.
But then your support does all this. That’s a really engaging story. That brings all the stuff you’ve been talking about to life, and even shuts me up with the alternatives I’ve been on about. It feels that the creative task is actually to dramatise Mindy’s story. So what I think I’m saying ultimately is that your brief could be really great, but the crux should be a ‘role for communications’ focus, or a task based proposition. The rest of your brief should be about putting this is in context.
One final quibble, quite right you tell the creatives what the comms plan is and what media they have to play with. But I would also make sure you have some executional guidelines, anything that’s a no no from the client point of view for example (for example, is Mindy happy to ‘star in the ads’) is there a logo? Do we have to use it? Does the brand have a name?
Finally, in conclusion, you write briefs really well. You have the knack for clarity and brevity, just have a think about what the most potent springboard is to help creatives solve the problem. I think it’s Mindy’s story, which not only feels like rich creative territory, it redefines the rest of the market as in-authentic next to a product owned by a woman, developed by a woman athlete, with other women athletes. There’s an independent feminist streak within this I really like.
Here is Geert's.
Right. First of all, well played for experimenting with briefing structures. Most places have a pre-prescribed list of boxes to fill, when the reality is that most projects and clients vary wildly and being flexible about what goes into a brief and how it’s written makes a lot of sense.
But then, the role of the brief in an agency doesn’t alter that much. A creative needs to understand what problem they’re solving, how best to go about doing that and be inspired to do their best work.
So I’m in quandary when it comes to the structure you’ve put together. Some would strongly rail against the fact you’ve left out the business context, others would applaud you for leaving out the extraneous stuff that gets in the way of creatives getting straight into what the role of communications is. I happen to believe that framing the commercial objective isn’t that important (you know, grow market share, increase frequency and so on), so I’m nearly on your side. But what I’m missing is you telling me what the point is of what you’re asking me to do. The best briefs tend to have a behavioural objective, or a very specific customer ‘take-out’. For example, ‘Make the reliability of the Honda Civic desirable rather than dull’, ‘Make Axe part of the morning routine’, ‘We need to get men and women talking about Old Spice’s authority in proper manliness’. I know you’re writing a brief about cultural strategy, but the creatives probably won’t, and there’s a lot of power in setting behavioural goals. I wonder if you just need to add a specific ‘role for communications’ section that might say, “Make the use of King of Shaves socially desirable’ or maybe, ‘Inspire men to use King of Shaves by offering an modern alternative to the out of touch market leaders’ . Does that make sense?
Anyway, after suggesting writing additional stuff, let’s look at what you have put….
Resounding applause for being clear and writing not too much. There tend to be two styles of brief. Either brutally clear and short, or a little longer in a style that’s a pleasure to read. Yours is the latter and I enjoyed reading it. I thought you let your words breathe, but it never got too long, I never got impatient for you to get to the point.
Now let’s take your content section by section…………
I really like your approach to the target audience. Smart to focus on the ‘main issue’ we’re going to be relevant to. I have to form an opinion on what you say, which is always good. You’ve been really specific with the cultural issue, but I find myself wishing you had been more specific with WHO they are. It wouldn’t be an issue if you stuck to the first paragraph, which could be a seen as issue for all men, but when you go on to say they’re spoilt, overpaid and lazy I wonder who you mean. It doesn’t mean working class men, who are actually losing disposable income, but if you mean professional or middle class types, you need to state this and be clear about what they’re lazy ABOUT. I don’t think you mean their jobs, I think you mean the things they do and their attitude to it outside of the workplace, or in a wider context. You need to clarify
But in any case, nicely linked to the cultural orthodoxy in the category. That’s an inspiring and credible enemy to rub up against.
You neatly link this to a role for King of Shaves- create a new sense of purpose amongst western males. But then you lose me a bit. It’s absolutely valid to have a ‘point of view’ rather than a ‘proposition’ especially for a brand looking for a new beginning. But you leave me confused about what part of that point of view might be. I loved your title, I wondered if that was a ‘proposition’, I certainly liked the simplicity. But now I’m not sure if what you want communications to do is overtly puncture the ‘fake male ideal’ (which could be very funny), actually shake men out of their complacency or excite them about what the future might hold.
Oh, then you tell me, it’s about rediscovering what manhood in Western society might mean. My issue is that most briefs tend to focus on one ‘box’ the thing creatives usually read first. I found it hard to find in your brief and still question the disconnect between an open source ‘let’s face the future together’ project and the opinionated ‘grow some balls title’. I take the first as similar to the Levis’ Go Forth work and the latter as something with a strong opinion of what modern men should be i.e men with courage and willingness to adventure. It’s not for me to judge which is right, but I really want to know what YOU think is right.
I then struggle with you telling me how to execute it. I’m not saying a motivational speech isn’t right and it really helps with clarity, I can see what’s inside your head now, you DO mean inspire men to have courage etc. But my view is that you should collaborate with creatives on execution after the briefing, it really shouldn’t be part of the brief. What I would do instead is point to some great source material you know customers will react to – perhaps culture they’re into or something emerging they’ll find relevant and fresh. For example, I got creatives a little excited in a project recently for an outdoorsy brand about various subcultures in big cities that are finding ways to shake up the monotony, conformity and downright ‘concreteness’ of them by doing stuff like guerrilla gardening or rollerblading en masse against the traffic.
You do have something later on the 40 motivational speeches in 2 minutes thing, but it’s very different to suggest some stimulus and TELL creatives what to do.
Then finally, you give us some clarity with your three stage campaign. I question asking so much of one campaign, you are actually doing three things, rather than doing ONE thing in a variety of guises. In many ways, this feel like campaigns one two and three. That’s your call of course, wonder if you should be trying to establish credibility for the brand as stage one, focus on your ‘confrontational mirror of modern man’.
That credibility thing brings me to my final point. What is missing from your brief is the support. I want to know why this is relevant to KOS. You eloquently spell out why it’s relevant to the category. But what is the relevance to KOS. I totally get that it’s a valid approach to own a point of view, but to do this without any obvious link to the brand or product means you have to work doubly hard to establish that credibility and focus on this 110%.What many miss about the Apple 1984 stuff was that they didn’t have any credibility in ‘tools for creative minds’ at this point, but they created it by redefining the competition as ‘Big Brother’. I’d possibly argue that even then macs were much more pleasant to use than clunky IBM’s but we’ll let that pass. When ghd launched, they went out and GOT credibility in fashion and hair culture by building a relationship with key opinion formers in those areas. People always go on about the Old Spice Guy, but forget, that work was only possible once they had re-calibrated their experienced, masculine credentials.
Great style. Really great I enjoyed reading this, some of your turns of phrase made me want to reach for the layout pad. But when you mess with more traditional brief formats, don’t forget creatives want to be given a clear task and have some inspirational starters for doing that well. A little more work on being clearer in your mind about what the job for communications is and what you need to do first would have paid off.
First point. So take the time to write less. Creatives don’t have a long attention span, you’re first objective, to be honest, to get them to pay attention to anything beyond the proposition. That means writing clearly and briefly. It also means speaking human, at times, you brief reads more like a client brief in terms of both the level of detail and you’re style. A brief should help a creative get excited about a simple problem/task and the springboard to solve it. No more no less. If the content of a brief doesn’t do this, chop it out.
That headings in bold? To a certain degree, I’d just put those in, that are great.
Right, let’s take the content chunk by chunk.
On your business problem…trust me, include stats and market share and you’ll lose a creative team straight away. I love that you’ve written that King of Shaves need to made notorious. There really is nothing wrong with admitting that you need to make your brand famous for upsetting a complacent market.
Now, on your ‘key insight’ section. It’s a valid way of approaching strategy and many creatives have moaned at me for not ‘having an insight’ when I’ve discussed with them a great story about the organisation I want them to bring to life. But, you can spend your life looking for an earth shattering, game-changing insight and never find one, usually at the expense of great thinking. So I usually simply approach customers in brief from the point of view of, either stating their current mindset and behaviour around the brand and/or what I know about them that will help us solve the problem. Sometimes that’s really simple information, in fact most of the time. I don’t think you’ve got an ‘insight’, we all know that shaving is part of that wonderful/terrible time for when you’re neither a boy or a man, when you’re finding out who you are and who you might want to be. It’s a time when young men begin to loosen the shackles of that teenage need to belong and begin to experiment with their own identity. This stuff Justin is truly great, I think you’re expressing a core truth about the role of the category no one else has ever brought to life. It’s not an insight, it’s better than that, it’s a rock solid truth at the heart of shaving that no one has ever tried to ‘own’. God knows why. I’m labouring the point here, but by calling this an insight, you run the risk of having your great thinking rejected by some arsey creative you might say, ‘That’s bloody obvious’. It’s not, by I would frame as who is the audience and what do we know about them that will help us? Anyhow, this is very good start.
I always love briefs that have a role for communications, a key behavioural task. Strategy with a clear, hard behavioural target is proven to be more effective that soft, wishy washy, ‘awareness’ and such. And you have a simple clear one……get them to buy a three step shaving package, rather than the traditional ‘gel and blades’. Cool. But what is missing from this section and the rest of the brief is the relevance of this to your emerging ‘character’. It’s fair to say that just by making the brand famous, you make the product famous, but I’d argue what you are really doing is making a new (to young men) way of shaving famous.
Then, unfortunately, you’ve missed an opportunity to get in all that cultural relevance to your great observation about this being a the beginnings of a man real journey, to tell me what might influence them on that journey and how they may currently choose shaving stuff with some lovely words I don’t really understand. I THINK you’re saying that other people define you by the way you look, and you have a chance to play with this and turn it to your advantage….if so, that’s great, it’s usually something brands seem to do with women, it hasn’t been done very well, if at all with men. But I’m only guessing. Yes, a brief should be beautifully written, but you need to make me understand exactly what you are saying. A brief is a contract between departments and sometimes between agency and client. Ambiguity is bad.
So you’ve missed a chance to bring enough context to your proposition. Now, I don’t believe a proposition is the be all and end all. Many planners don’t bother with one, they put it a great task for communications or a key customer ‘take-out’. That’s mostly my approach. If you’re going to do one, it needs to really good. The kind of thing you might say to someone in the pub and they go, ‘oh!’. For example, ‘Harvey Nichols is heaven for fashion addicts’, ‘when you use ghd for the first time it’s like an epiphany’ etc. Of course, clarity is key, and you are being clear, but this is where you sum up your strategy in a way that gets creatives wanting to pick up their layout pad. This doesn’t quite do this. Also, I don’t this is what your brief is actually about. It seems to me you’re saying that every day is a new start, the chance to try on another version of yourself and see if you like it, a chance to do something different, surprising, to push the boundaries of your own limits and inhibitions…to defy the pigeonhole others could put you in. I don’t know if that’s what you’re driving at, because you haven’t been clear, but that’s where you’re support is going to my mind. I’m not a great proposition writer, I tend to plagiarise quotes and stuff, but I wonder if actually you might want to write something like ’never be the same man twice’, something that encourages young men to, every day, suck up all the endless variety of experience out there. I don’t know.
Like I said, what is missing is the role for a different shaving ritual, I suspect what you’re driving at is that that’s what you’re creating, by making every shave a ritual for contemplation, by making young men think about the act and what it represents, you create a role for it anyway, If so, you need to actually say this.
Of course, what I’m on about is not quite ‘character’ but I struggle to find a real role for this within your brief, or at least my interpretation of it. So I’m a little unsure about your brand behaviour section. That feels like a something for another brief, or brand to be honest. ‘Taking time to make the right impression’ almost reads as worrying about what other people think. I know that’s not what you’re saying, but it could be read that way. I want something that grabs me a little more and makes me ‘feel’ what you’re on about. I can’t work out if this is a rebellious, maverick brand (I think so since you want KOS to be notorious) or something more considered…which is where character takes me.
That’s my struggle with your ‘success’ section. Again, don’t bother with telling creatives sales targets, focus on the change of opinion, culture or behaviour you’re after. This isn’t the open bit of a brief, the change you want needs to be rock solid, the open bit of the brief is the best way to get there. I’m already confused about the role of ‘three step product’, and I how much this about ‘self definition’ of identity, or behaving like KOS tells me. I’m still none the wiser.
Finally, I like you have suggested the brand origins as place to look for ideas, but what is the relevance to your brief? I actually wanted to know what is the relevance of KOS full stop to your direction. It’s fair to say that, when you have a brand with no real history, heritage or point of difference, you create one, looking to culture as we’ve talked about in the wider cultural strategy project….that’s what Dove did with the campaign for real beauty and made it credible by ‘walking the walk’ with real women as models and actual survey they still do year in year out. But look at Old Spice, who had years of ‘experience’ and credibility in manliness, the trick was bringing it to life. When you have a credible story like KOS, it’s worth thinking about how to use it. I was beginning to love how you wanted to use the different approach to the ritual, with the 3 step process, but you haven’t built real meaning into this, are at least you’ve left me to work out too much myself.
Do take more time to write less. Your bold headline almost did the job without the need for the paragraph behind it.
Only include what will inspire the creatives to get to grips with the task in hand and help them crack it. Nothing else.
Don’t call it an insight unless it is one. What you had was a core truth that no one else uses and clear customer for it. This bit was great, but then I think you failed to be clear about what you wanted the creatives to do with it.
That task is to change behaviour around the shaving ritual, so you needed to weave the three step process into that ritual more.
Be consistent. I doesn’t matter if your proposition isn’t the greatest if the rest of your brief is littered with gold. Your observations about the customer absolutely was golden, and many creatives could have stopped there and got on with some great work. But then you confused me…self-definition v character seems the central conflict, also, a ‘notorious brand’ v ‘character’.
Great work, really great bits, but be simpler, clearer, more consistent and have one, clear task.
First comments on style. Very well written and pleasure to read. But keep an eye on brevity. Whoever said that creative briefs need to fit on a page, that person is an idiot. Briefs need to be as long as they need to be. But, do edit précis and distil until you are sure every word is there for a good reason…this brief could be a tiny but shorter, creative’s attention spans are not massive, this could maybe have done with one final edit. Possibly, this is down to slightly over elaborate writing. Well played for not writing in marketing speak and talking ‘human’ but on occasion, your style is a little ‘literary’ there’s a fine line something that’s inspiring clear and something that’s either brutally simple and dull or self- indulgently prosaic. You definitely are on the right side, it’s great, but do keep an eye on it.
Now for the content.
Your business challenge is fine, it’s clear - but maybe here is where little simplicity can go a long way. You’re basically saying we can’t ‘out product’ Gillette and co, so we need to bring a fresh approach to the category. I wonder if it could be said that simply. Here’s this section from an ‘Axe’ brief…’There’s a big opportunity in getting Axe users to use Axe more often more often. In Japan they only use it a few times a day, if we can get them using Axe every day we will make xxM euros per year’ I wonder if you’d better setting some sort of crystal clear behavioural target – even if it’s as simple as ‘get young men to switch from Gillette to KOS by giving them a reason beyond how many blades it has’. Or maybe, ‘Sell more KOS by making it socially desirable in a category built on an NP arms race’
The brand is..it’s really important to nail this. I actually like the BBH method of stating ‘the product is’ and ‘the brand is’. In the respect of KOS, this is important because I want to know if you’re world is the razor, or the oils and stuff that go with it. In the respect of the brand, I really like what you’ve written, but it needs to be shorter. Some great BBH examples: Polaroid is ‘a unique social lubricant who’s results are as unpredictable as they are immediate’ or Axe again. “The edge in the mating game”. How can you condense your great thinking into something equally clear, brief and stimulating. BBH (is use them because it’s their ‘the brand is question you’ve used) tend to focus on the relevant role the brand plays in its customers lives. Think about Old Spice that ‘gets you experience’. The best encapsulation I got if ghd was ‘liberation from limits culture sets for what woman can do and be’. I’m not a fan of using archetypes I’m afraid, lots of brands do, which is why so many brands are similar. Lots of brands want to ‘challenge’ lots of brands want to ‘be you friend’, the real differentiation is how they go about this. Challenger brands usually focus on one thing, they tend to unite a community against a common enemy (usually one no one has identified besides the fact it’s becoming a real cultural flashpoint). Also, much of what you’re doing here is setting out the background, which maybe should have been done in the ‘business challenge’ or even not have one and have a ’background’. I think you’re on to something with your elaboration on friend- this is really good stuff, I need to be drawn to this quickly and you need to make this more memorable. For example, “KOS liberates the inner mischief maker inside every man”, I’ve got to say, I quite like a male version of ghd “liberation from the limits culture sets on what a man can be or do” Perhaps you want to lighten up a bit and inject a bit more ‘mischief into it “the provocateur who inspires men to try all the things never quite dared”. Of course you can do a hell of a lot better, but still, you need to be a little clearer. As we’ll see, this becomes more important as we go into the rest of your brief.
Love your description of the customer. You’ve nailed exactly who they are and what we know about them that will help us. Trouble is, what I’m getting from this is not necessarily that culturally they need an injection of mischief, I’m getting that they need liberation from the pressure to conform to out of date role models and archetypes. You state that they need to rediscover their sense of mischief, but that feels like the solution to another problem….the fact more grown up men increasingly miss opportunities to behave like boys, but this is well catered for by WKD in the UK, the Hangover in movies and even Men Behaving Badly…I know that’s not the fact more grown up men increasingly miss opportunities to behave like boys, but this is well catered for by WKD in the UK, the Hangover in movies and even Men Behaving Badly…I know that’s not what you’re saying, but that’s because I think you’re talking about something more subtle and important – the opportunities for what can do, or can be, are so rich now, but at the same time, culture pigeonholes a bloke in a way it no longer does with women. Love what you say about ambiguity and robo-males, but I don’t agree the solution is ‘mischief’. Creatively, I always return to WKD territory, or the Coke Zero work in the UK, I just see older more varied casting. I keep going to a place where we get men to embrace contradiction and ambiguity.
You state this in your role for communications, which I think is the most creatively interesting, liberating and clear part of your brief. I really love this. But then I feel let down by the proposition, which is a GOOD proposition, don’t get me wrong, it’s clear, powerful and full of potential. But it not only limits the great stuff you’ve already set out, it feels opposite. Your role for comms takes me to a place where, yes, bored, staid blokes at work can do outrageous stuff in their spare time, but it also takes me to a place where people with outrageous jobs can do mundane but rewarding things in THEIR spare time. Most comedians are not funny out of their day job (have look at Steve Coogan in the trip for reference) for example. Am I making sense. I’m trying not to question your strategy, this isn’t what this is all about, but there IS a disconnect in your brief, The cultural problem you set out isn’t answered by your proposition. I don’t think you need one when your role for comms is so great….and so relevant to the category.
So when you tell me to avoid WKD Nuts, I’m a little lost, as I’m not sure where else to go for inspiration. Yes, I could go to examples from more grown up culture, but you should point me there.
I get a bit lost after this. If you’re going to have a big section on channel thinking, you need to actually include channel thinking. My fear is what you’ve really written is ‘up to you’. Which mostly means that a creative is likely to start with TV scripts I’m afraid (harsh but true). There’s nothing wrong with not putting specific media in, but I tend to find that some engagement pointers really help. The crux of that BBH brief for frequency in Japan was the fact that young Japanese guys use their phone as an alarm clock – they built an idea and a comms plan out from this. The Old Spice engagement thinking is based on creating conversation between man and woman. I think you are asking the creatives for a ‘big idea’. Not an advertising idea, an idea. The right point to show up in their lives and what you want to happen at this point is critical. Suddenly, what you get is ideas that you advertise rather than ‘advertising ideas’. Shaving brands pummel men into submission with high frequency, really insultingly bad, formulaic ‘advertising’ TV scripts. What would the opposite of this be? I think straight away you’re in a world where we don’t insult our customer’s intelligence and where the characters are never quite what they seem. I think you might be targeting situations where men might want the opposite of what they’re pretending to want or be to other people. Again, you can do much better, but if you’re going to channel thinking, or engagement thinking, you have to DO channel thinking or engagement thinking!
Finally, you use Will King in your support. Now that’s fine, on the level that he’s a natural challenger, but it doesn’t really help in terms of either mischief or ambiguity. I applaud you for trying pull everything back to credible relevance to KOS, but I’m not sure ‘this is challenger strategy, he’s a challenger’ does this as well as it might. The culture jamming thing with the King’s Speech is interesting, it shows he might be interested in shaking things up, but I see no real evidence he is either mischievous or a modern, more ambiguous guy.
You need to look harder for relevance or don’t bother. For example, Chrysler is made in Detroit, a hard down to earth city, so the ‘hard work campaign’ is credible, Old Spice has lots of ‘experience’ as a brand for real men (to its detriment until the this weakness was turned into a strength). Conversely, Axe had no heritage in male confidence, except for helping with this first, now in this day and age when you have to walk the walk, their digital stuff provides real help with the mating game, rather than just ad concepts. This is an option. Just do the mischief thing, but go all in. Personally, I think there’s something a range that doesn’t just rival Gillette’s but is very different. Oils and serums, a funny shaped razor that isn’t the same as the rest, but with more fucking blades. When you compare the two, Gillette’s product look stuck in the eighties, as does it’s comms, as is its brand. I wonder if it’s as simple as that. I know you allude to this, but if this is your point, you need to make it in a clearer way.
Really great work. It’s a great brief, but work harder on saying less and being clearer. Someone once told me that a great brief might have different sections, but really you’re making the same point in different ways. Be sure your brief is doing that. Great briefs are also ‘open’ but with a clear direction of travel. That’s why lots of modern briefs focus on the task, or the creative challenge and leave off with the proposition. I was with you 100% with your role for comms, I knew what you wanted me to do, than I fell flat with the mischief proposition. So I’m saying have one central theme, resist the temptation to have more.
First, your style. I really like the way you write and especially the way you write briefs. A really good brief can be brutally simple, which isn’t easy, but nowhere near as hard as the other way (in my eyes) something that retains clarity and brevity, but is also a joy to read- drawing you in and packing lots of thought starters and ideas into the content. You’re on the way to doing this, really good.
Now for the content..
Nicely written background, sets the scene well. Sets up a clear task – get a switch from Gillette.
I like the way you build on this with your category conventions section, nice observation about Tiger Woods and interesting guys. You NEARLY paint a clear picture of the Gillette guy, I just wanted you to be more specific…possibly at this point you fall into ‘planner speak’ a little, you know ‘modern masculine identity’…I wanted you to tell me what you mean by ‘highly performing’. I think you mean the successful, driven competitive guy who has ‘won’, but I’m not sure. Maybe it doesn’t matter because you’ve immediately drawn me to picture in my own head with all those instinctive associations, but I think it’s really important to clearly state the category orthodoxy when you’re about to show me what that cultural tension this is part of, and what the big opportunity is for KOS.
I like your audience/tension section. I do wonder if it edges towards being slightly too grandiose, at times it feels like ‘a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away’ but to be honest, like the confidence and the sense of a call to arms. Personally I have a quibble with the view that it’s all expectation to be like your Dad, I think it’s a lot more complex than that. I think a little more that it’s confusing and burdensome to be made to feel at one point you need to be a steadfast, man of action…the chiselled, self- sacrificing rock who provides and takes care, and at the next be encouraged to reject responsibility and hang with the lads, and then be a metro sexual dandy. I know the category focuses just on the ‘man of action’ stuff, but I wonder if the bigger cultural stuff is a ‘range’ of clichés, none of which capture the complexity of being a man today. Also, I’m very interested in WHY this is, you don’t get to this…but now I’m on about strategy and this is really about how you bring strategy to life. On that note, it’s clear and motivating….and I love that you’ve established a clear ‘real world’ link to this – beards.
Business challenge, great, simple.
But then I’m a little let down by your creative challenge. It’s great you’re experimenting with a task based proposition/role for communications or whatever you want to call it. But you’ve got me interested and a little excited, I’m waiting for the punch line, the sentence that puts it in the back of the net. This, I’m afraid is a little too long. (some) Creatives are happy to not have ‘propositions’ in briefs, but all want a clear, simple sentence that sets out their task, for example: make the reliability of the Honda Civic desirable rather than dull, make Lurpak the champion of good Food, dramatise how using ghd for the first time is like an epiphany, inspire people to up a paintbrush and get creative with their home, create a national debate about who really is tidiest – men or woman, inspire women to free their inner child…………..I wanted the equivalent of that.
‘Tell the story of these new men and what it means to be a man today’ and ‘embed shaving as a way of self transformation’ feel like two separate tasks. I’d be confused as to which you want me to do (I like the former, it feels more like a behavioural target which is usually more effective). I think the heart of what you’re asking for is inspiring men to follow their own instincts on a daily basis, making the act of shaving with KOS some kind of daily ‘spark’ towards men living each day on their own terms, or experimenting more.
In your tone of voice section I get confused. Why are you talking about beards? I thought it was going to be significant when you introduced it in your audience section, but then it went away. I’m suspecting it’s an important part again, but it doesn’t have a place in the bit of the brief that should help with tone and manner. Nothing else. Nothing with creative starters, or even some ‘supporting idea’ rather than just support, but it’s either one or the other. Right now it’s neither. I’m getting to like the rest of it. I’m not really on board with a couple of ‘personality traits’ (I’ve always like the ‘the brand is’ section in BBH briefs) ….but I’m not 100% clear how this brand should behave. It’s well written, but be sure it really MEANS something. I wonder if you’re trying to be bit clever.
I like your clear, simple support. It feels credible when you describe Will King as someone who has followed his own instincts rather than the expectations of others. Perhaps more evidence – both how Will have behaved and also how the products themselves feel like a modern alternative to competition that all looks that same. I sometimes use the support to bury my own pet ideas and thought starters, this might the place to throw in beards and anything else you would like to see tried out. Creatives tend to work straight from the proposition/task/challenge first, kind of dumping all their first thoughts. Then the really get into it, usually going to the support for more inspiration. I’ve even been jovially bollocked by a creative team by having what they thought SHOULD have been the core proposition in the support, not knowing that I did it on purpose.
So there you go. Like I said, really well written, great thoughts. But while you’re clear about the problem you want creatives to solve, you need to be much clearers and single-minded about the creative task and what the role of beards might be. I’m all for littering a brief with gold rather than relying on one sentence, but it still needs to be coherent. A brief is a summary of strategy and very quickly finds out any knots in that strategy, I wonder if that’s the case with this document.
First, on your style. Impressively succinct. Clear, brief, good. There’s a really good discipline about the way briefs summarise a strategy, you soon find any weaknesses, contradictions or knots, the shear brevity of your document already suggests something simple and clear. So really, really good. I’m also liking your tone. You speak human, cutting out the needless marketing speak and temptation to look clever. This brief sings intelligence because it doesn’t try too hard.
So, to the content.
I like your background, you’ve introduced me to the company and the man. My only quibble is you’ve got little carried away. Great you’re saying KOS is doing OK in the UK, but time to step forward…but what is that step forward? What are the plans? Is that world domination? US? Europe? Asia? People are very different in those markets, creatives need to know if this is real global stuff, which is bloody hard and needs a brand out approach, or common observation about how people behave, or a more specific Western approach. And again, with the problems of language and cultural differences (US gets irony, Germany doesn’t) it needs to be specific. I hoped you would cover this in your business challenge, but you merely say this is a voyage into the unknown.
Irrespective of this, I like that you’re very clear you’ve selected audience. It’s clear you’ve defines them by attitude and what interests them, but I wanted more. I get they hate shaving and don’t do it very often (I won’t get into the debate about reducing frequency or not, since my view is that frequency/loyalty etc is pretty much stable across all brands in a category, you won’t get them shaving more or less. I actually think your choice of creative class might inspire all sorts of more ‘boring’ men too, most blokes struggle with conflict between responsibility and self indulgence, it’s biological in the sense our instincts telling us to shag everything that moves while our heads telling us to be civilised, just like we know we should grow up and be sensible but we secretly wish for freedom. I see much possibility in getting lots of blokes having an outlet for their ache to be the free man of action, modern day cowboys or something…anyway) You’ll see that I think there’s loads of stuff bubbling under the surface of the ‘creative class’ approach. I wish that a) you’d told the creatives a little more about who they were, rather than expecting them to know, it’s great to give an audience an interesting name, but you do need to paint a picture of them a bit more. Also, you say they don’t like shaving but don’t really nail the open minded, non-conformist mentality creatives need to get a handle of. Also, I’d want you to nail the way shaving is part of a wider tension much of their liberal outlook rubs against cultural expectations, especially with the current lurch to the right in western society and new puritanism (in fact come to think of it, they might like puritan aesthetics, you know, scratch cooking, simple but bloody expensive clothes etc). What does the well groomed business guy really represent to them (Gillette man if you like) and in what way are they the antithesis of this.
This, almost over brevity, in your audience section, mean that, despite my really liking your creative challenge (it feels open and full of creative potential, there isn’t much in male popular culture that feels like sticking it to ‘the man’ you know, the man that’s fucked up nearly everything for all of us and somehow got richer for it, which your left leaning audience will love and might really blow up a tinderbox of a cultural flashpoint, I’m liking a grown up version of Levis) I don’t have enough CONTEXT from what’s gone before to REALLY get fired up by it. Which is a shame because I think it could be great. You need to either write a new ‘challenge’ which really unites these guys against a common enemy (which I think is what you’re really driving at) or provide much more context in the stuff previously.
There’s an opportunity to inject a bit more meat with your support section. I don’t think it’s enough to say there’s a book, this bit is not only for proving this is the right thing to do, it’s also for smuggling ideas into the brief. Creatives tend to read this section second, after the ‘challenge/proposition’. It should be littered with gold.
So, I really liked this brief. I love your style, I love the simplicity and brevity. I can read this quickly, get excited and get on. That’s great. I just wanted you to clearer about where these people actually are, what they get excited about (and why) and how and why ‘Gillette’ man can be made into such a potent enemy. As young planner, you won’t get this kind of feedback very often, but I want you to take the time to write more!
That's nearly it.There will be winner announced the week after next. I've run out time and I'm on holiday next week. Hope nobody minds and it feels like a victory getting the actual feedback out thus far!