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Great Brief = Great Creative

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I was lucky to have had an early start in the ad agency world. The energy of youth served me well on those all-nighter pitch preparations (or the fun task of hand cleaning slides—the Kodak kind—at midnight). Yes, I was at a distance from strategic work back in those days.

It wasn’t until I got much closer to the creative development of a project that I really learned about the importance of a well-thought-out and well-written creative brief. And once I moved to the client-side of the table, I truly got a sense of just how critical that document is to the whole creative process. I have never forgotten the words of the CEO at my first corporate (client-side) employer, “Great creative comes from a great brief.” That statement also gets at the heart of the collaboration between agency and client.

So what is a creative brief anyway? Google it, and you’ll find that there are many different flavors of a brief out there, but fortunately there are some consistent components that haven’t changed all that much over time. I refer to these as the “W5+”: Why, Who, What, Where, When, and How (the “+”):

Why: What is the purpose or objective of the project?

Who: Who is the target market or audience? What do we know about them? What do we want them to do?

What: What is the product or service? What are the key messages? What makes the “it” different or special, or what problem does it solve for the Who?

Where: Where will the creative be used? What channels and platforms?

When: When are the deliverables needed? What is the timeline?

How: What is the voice and tone? How do we want to sound? Are there any assets (visuals, logos, photography etc.) that need to be included? Are there any other details that will guide how we develop the creative execution?

If you are client-side, most of the agencies or marketing consultants you’ll work with have got their own version of a creative brief. But if you want to get some thinking going before even starting project, the W5+ may be of help.

Invest some time and thought in your creative brief, whatever form it takes. The investment in a great brief will help to bring forth great creative. It will also help both you and your agency when it comes time to reviewing creative.

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