The Creative Brief: 11 questions answered

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The creative brief is the salt and pepper of any creative effort, whether we discuss ad campaigns, branding, or events. There are many questions and debates around this document, so in the following, I will clarify the most important ones.

The Creative Brief: 11 questions answered 1


What is a Creative Brief

The Creative Brief is the basis of any creative effort, which may include online and offline advertising campaigns, branding, events, media production, direct marketing campaigns, and many more. The creative brief is needed in order to translate marketing objectives or concept into a real advertisement or a real communication campaign.

The Creative Brief in marketing

In marketing, this document is necessary when the marketing team has its own creatives, which although attend many internal meetings, they still need a simple document that transposes marketing information into concise, non-technical, inspiring phrases.

What is a creative brief in advertising

In advertising agencies, the creative brief is a document usually prepared by the account planning team, having only one responsible assigned. Usually, this person is a strategic planner that might have or not by her/his side a specialist in consumer research.

Usually, the creative brief is first discussed in a close circle with the strategy director before presenting it to the creative team.

What should include a creative brief?

Every creative brief needs to answer several standard questions, although each creative agency uses its own format and concept. In fact, some agencies have even renamed the creative brief, but almost all of them include four standard chapters:

  • Which is the main communication objective?
  • Who is the target audience?
  • What is the strategic rationale?
  • What are the deliverables?

Usually, there are more chapters in a brief (less important), but today we’ll focus on the most important ones.

What is a creative brief in graphic design

In graphic design, the creative brief it’s a necessary tool. Compared to the advertising creative brief, in creative design, it focuses more on the visual side, usually including more references that help the designers to find faster a winning concept.

What is a great creative brief?

The greatness of a creative brief is awarded by several stakeholders. Because this document is prepared and written by an account manager or a strategic planner, the first person who will judge if it’s a great one is the group account director or the strategy director. Based on their experience, they most often see on the spot the potential of a great creative brief.

The second stakeholder is actually a team of two comprising an art director and a copywriter, which are assigned by the creative director to that account or campaign. Their immediate feedback is a clear sign if the respective paper is great or not. For example, receiving too many questions or too few instead of an Evrika! usually sends the creative brief to be corrected.

Last but not least, the creative director is the executive that can veto the entire briefing process if she or he considers that the contents of the brief don’t meet the expectations. The creative director it’s the most important stakeholder that can assess if the creative brief is great or not.

Why do you need a creative brief

Marketing plans and creative ideas have very little in common. The creative brief acts like a bridge or like a translator that turns quantitative data into powerful stimuli for the creative minds.

What does a creative brief look like

All creative briefs use a template which in almost all cases is limited to one or two pages. Many times it is written in a Microsoft Word file, that has its sections clearly split in rectangles (yeah, I know, not very creative, but it needs first structure). Each of the sections often has clear instructions on how to be filled in.

Not all the sections are really useful to the creative team, because some of them have administrative purposes like stating the team involved, the project’s code, and the chain of approval.

How to write an inspired creative brief

In an earlier example, I shared three rules to write a slick creative brief.
First of all, you need to be prepared to compromise because you cannot fit all your ideas and data into a one or two-page document.

Additionally, the writer of this brief needs to act as a brand detective, investigating whether the information in the client’s brief is enough and 100% honest.

Lastly, the creative brief writer needs to apply a DT (divergent thinking) + CT (convergent thinking) process to the most important sections: the audience and the strategic route.

How is a creative brief used?

Usually a creative brief his first used in the creative briefing session, and if it gets approved in that meeting then it is handed in physical format and/or via email to the creative team.

The document usually appears again in the internal meetings when the creatives present the creative ideas to the entire team.

Later, however, if the team agrees on the creative concept and deliverables and move into preparing the presentation for the client, the document is archived.

How to deliver a creative brief

As I mentioned above, the brief needs to be delivered formally in a meeting with the creative team assigned on that particular project.

A pre-alignment before a creative briefing meeting with other important stakeholders in the agency (such as the Client Service team) might ensure its success.

One important watch-out:

The brief should never be delivered via email because there is a very high chance that the creative team won’t understand all its fundamentals and rationale. Given the regular short timings for this process, these risks need to be avoided at all costs, thus face to face (or via telco) delivery is mandatory.