Eric Ahrendt Writer

Archive for February, 2014

Why Bother With a Creative Brief?

Posted on February 10, 2014 by 1 Comment

What’s the fun part of developing branding campaigns, online or print ads, website home pages and other marketing pieces? Coming up with creative concepts. What’s the work part? Researching and writing the creative brief. So maybe it’s no surprise that clients are avoiding the step of writing a brief and—even if they’re working with a creative team—are diving directly into coming up with creative concepts themselves. What’s wrong with that? For starters, how about the creativity of the concepts, the degree to which they meet marketing objectives, and the ability to measure results.

Short-Circuiting the Process

Not only are clients not writing a brief for the creative team to work from, they’re developing the creative concepts themselves. After all, they think of themselves as creative people (who doesn’t?) and all the research and analysis that go into a good brief are hard. It’s faster, easier and more fun to go directly to thinking up crazy concepts. All that’s left is to tell the creative team to execute a couple of them and decide which you like best. Done!

But clients who consistently short-circuit the creative process in this way will get mediocre creative and results. One, because without a brief that specifies the target audience, the marketing objectives, the highest-priority message, the audience’s most-pressing needs or wants, and so on, there’s no guiding document to shape the creative concepts or measure them against. And two, clients rarely come up with concepts as good as those of the creative team.

No Yardstick To Measure With

Imagine two clients: Client A writes a solid creative brief, Client B doesn’t write one at all. Client A gives the brief to the creative team, which develops three ad concepts. Client A evaluates the concepts using the creative brief as the yardstick. The determining factor in which concept is chosen isn’t which one is the most original or edgy or funny, but which one best meets the objectives set out in the brief. She picks the winner, has the team execute it, and measures its success, again using the brief as the yardstick. The result for Client A is an ad that helps the company meet the objectives spelled out in the brief, which are part of an overall marketing strategy.

Client B, who never wrote a brief, developed the creative concepts for the ad himself. He evaluates them by showing them to a few colleagues in the office, all of whom have different ideas about who the audience is, what the key benefit to be communicated is, and different opinions on what works. He gets back a mishmash of opinions, none of them grounded in any commonly agreed-upon set of criteria, and makes a completely subjective decision to go with one of the concepts. He then gives it to the creative team to “clean up” and produce. He has no way to measure its success, since what it’s supposed to accomplish was never defined. Was it a good creative concept? Who knows—there’s no brief spelling out what the ad was supposed to do, so there’s no way to say the creative worked or not. And there’s no way to measure results.

Moral of the Story

The moral of the story for clients: You don’t have to write a brief that contains pages of quantitative research, a category analysis and so on (although that would not be wasted time at all), but you do need to write a short brief that spells out who the target audience is, what you want to accomplish with the ad (create awareness, change perception, differentiate your product, etc.) and clearly states the most important message to communicate. You should stop there, give the brief to the creative team, and let them come up with the concepts. You’ll get better creative that does a better job of meeting your marketing objectives. True, you didn’t get to do the fun part, but selling more product, getting credit for managing a successful campaign, and getting raises and promotions can be fun, too.

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Most of these posts are my opinions and observations about marcom writing; others are about somewhat-related subjects I felt were post-worthy. I'm just hoping none of my current clients leave me after reading these.

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