the three most important sections on a creative brief
Turnaround times are getting shorter by the year and many of the jobs that come into the creative department need to be back out again before the ink on the brief has had a chance to dry. Just because we’re all rushed off our feet doesn’t mean we can forget the basic rules of marketing best-practice, including the importance of a concise and well-considered creative brief.
While the briefing form might vary slightly from agency to agency, I’ve found they are all pretty much the same and ask the author to address a very similar set of questions. Use the following three sections correctly and the rest of the brief should look after itself:
The focal point of any creative brief is the proposition. I understand why clients might want to pack the proposition with as much information as they possibly can, believing this will lead to harder working and more effective communications. This is a big mistake for two reasons. Firstly, it’s almost impossible to produce work with cut-through when the messaging is busy. The result is invariably cluttered and confusing. Secondly, because the Creatives simply can’t say everything you want them to, you’re inviting them to prioritise the elements in the proposition in a way that suits their own warped imaginations. How dangerous is that?
The chances are, when push comes to shove, the client will have a different order of priorities and it will be a case of back to the drawing board when the work is presented. A creative brief with a single-minded proposition will always prevent this happening.
But being single-minded isn’t much good if the proposition isn’t competitive. In this world of me-too products and services it’s becoming increasingly difficult to find a strong point of difference. If you’re writing a creative brief, remember that your proposition will be exactly what will come through in the main message of the work. More often than not, if the proposition is uninspiring, then the work will be too.
The ‘Support’ or substantiation section of your brief will provide the Creatives with the ammunition to bring your proposition to life. If it doesn’t, then not only does this muddy the waters but it could also mean that you’ve got the wrong proposition, and it’s time for a rethink. There’s not much else to say about this section except that nothing, absolutely nothing, should go into it unless it directly supports the proposition – no matter how important you think that information might be. Which brings us neatly on to the ‘Helpful Stuff’ section…
The ‘Helpful Stuff’ section might seem like one of the most innocuous on the creative brief but, used correctly, it can turn a sloppy, meandering brief into one that’s razor-sharp. At HPS, we encourage our young account handlers to use this section freely. We tell them they can fill it with as much background information as they like so long as they try to keep the rest of the brief to one side of A4. This ensures the other key sections of your creative brief remain concise and completely focused. Job done.
Talking of helpful stuff, we’ve developed a handy creative brief template for you to ensure you can get the job done.