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How to write a Creative Brief
The fastest path to success in creative development is an effective brief. So why is it so hard for us to effectively write them?
"There are occasions where 90% of the creative work serves as nothing more than a stimulus for a conversation that should have taken place long before any creative development began." Nubie said. "This in spite of the fact that a document called a "creative brief" may have actually existed. The problem quite often is that the only characteristics of a true creative brief in that document are those two words at the top of the page."
Nubie has worked on both the agency and client side of the advertising business over 35 years and he says there has been some improvement on the briefing front. "It's evolved a bit and that's a good thing. We've gone from 'copy strategy' to 'creative strategy' to 'creative brief.'
Along the way a little more detail and texture got added to the format, but at times it still ends up being a copy-point/to-
So what are the ingredients of a good brief? Nubie says the answer isn't always so easy.
What exactly do they want?
"A relevant consumer insight can fuel a creative team to do remarkable work." Nubie said. "The more texture and information you have about your customer the easier it is to not only generate ideas, but to present and defend them. That's where the role of a true strategic planner comes into play. This isn't about account people assembling demographics, this is about brilliant people looking for connections based on hard work and investigation to find patterns and connections to bring a customer to life. Without that customer insight everybody's guessing and that's when the creative turns into a game of flashcards."
So is that it? A consumer insight?
"It's the critical starting point but it shouldn't stop there. All advertising has to connect the customer to a brand. Knowing exactly what that brand stands for is the other critical part of the puzzle. It actually points to some layers and levels of briefs and the best place to begin is the brand brief."
This isn't sounding so brief anymore, but Nubie was steadfast.
"Look, a brand brief is nothing more than a vision and mission statement. The vision is the goal for the brand. What do you want to be and how do you want to be perceived? The mission is simply an identification of the measurable objectives that will get you to your goal. Creative people need to know this. It gives them some context for what they have to do."
But isn't this too much information?
"There's no such thing as too much information up front." Nubie said. "What makes creative people crazy is when everybody shows up towards the end of the creative project with opinions, issues and new information. That usually means start over. A good brand brief gives you a platform to get the big picture, and then you need a project brief."
And is that the creative brief?
"Too some degree." According to Nubie. "A project brief links to the mission statement. It's a lucid and insightful explanation of why you are developing this project or program, and how it satisfies one of the components of the brand mission. It should be detailed and specific to exactly what needs to be accomplished from a communication standpoint; insight on the consumer, and most importantly a clear definition of the role of the message across the media mix."
So is this a creative brief or a media brief?
"It's both and it should be. Media decisions are creative decisions built on the same foundation of consumer insight. It's all about the right message, to the right person, in the right place, at the right time. You need to understand the relationship and the role of the various media to do that. That's fundamentally what a project brief is all about.
So now we're done right? Now we can start on the creative?
"I wouldn't." Nubie protested. "Not until I had what you can finally call a creative brief. It's fundamentally a task brief defining what the specific role of a medium like the website or the mobile marketing or the retail is supposed to accomplish, and how that message is complemented and supported by broadcast or other media channels. The old school idea of repeating the same message over and over again across all media died with 8-track tapes. Unfortunately, many brands still seem to be playing that old song."
So which brief do we give to the creative team?
"All 3." Nubie said. "They have to have the brand brief, they need to understand the full scope of the project through the project brief, and each of them will have to deliver on a specific task or set of tasks. Ultimately, that's what empowers integrated marketing. They need the big picture and all the details that define it. They need that briefing package and it has to be not only done properly, but approved, endorsed and supported. It's essentially a creative contract and creative people will thank you for it."
Are you sure about that we wondered?
"Creative people who tell you they don't need information about the brand, the project and the task at hand are either psychic or frauds." Nubie argued. "Too many of us have tried to play the mind-reading game, and in this business the frauds get found out fast. Look, doing creative in a business environment is challenging enough, doing it without an effective brief is like doing it blind-folded in the dark. In this economy few brands can afford to miss the mark over and over again. A good briefing package is just good business. More than that, it's just plain common sense."
Steve Nubie's book: Navigating the Creative Process: 6 Steps to Creative Success can be downloaded across 9 digital platforms at www.smashwords.com.
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Steve Nubie has been working professionally in creative for 35 years from copywriter to Chief Creative Officer across Global Advertising Agencies and as a client for Global brands. He is the author of 3 books, numerous Twilight Zone episodes, and more than 50 magazine articles on subjects ranging from brand analysis to creative, new business startups, advertising ethics and fly fishing. Along the way he has written and produced hundreds of TV commercials, thousands of radio spots and more pieces of packaging, retail communication and direct marketing than he can count. He is a professional public speaker on the creative process and resides in the Chicago area where he writes, consults and occasionally sleeps.
Page Updated Last on: Feb 07, 2010