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21 Bennett’s Hill,
B2 5QP

The 3 characteristics of a brilliant creative brief

A wise pal once told me he always thinks of a creative brief as if he’s standing on the edge of a river. His objective is to get to the opposite river bank, but he doesn’t know how to get there without getting wet.

He’s scared of boats, so his only way across is to build a bridge.

Problem is, he sucks at building bridges. He lacks the tools, the experience and – crucially – the creativity to figure out how to build the bridge that will get him over to the other side.

To get across, he needs other people who do possess the necessary skills.

So he enlists his companions and imparts the knowledge he has in a clear, coherent and inspirational way so that everyone knows what’s expected of them and the parameters within which they’re expected to work.

Lo and behold, he gets across the river without touching a drop of water.

Great story, but what’s it got to do with creative briefs?

The creative brief is a standard tool of our trade, and is used to communicate our client’s needs to the creative team.

It’s crucial because for a project to be successful, everyone needs to be on the same page with no misunderstandings and no time wasted.

Just like in the bridge-building metaphor, there are three things which make a brilliant creative brief.

1. Clarity

It’s really important to clearly state what the problem is that we’re trying to solve. Bravissimo wanted to reach a younger audience. Kaspersky wanted to showcase their new proposition through storytelling. MG wanted to change brand perceptions with a new model launch.

In the bridge metaphor, the goal is simply “I want to get to the other side of the river”.

Without this clarity, chaos will reign and the ideas the team produces will lack the single mindedness that separates a brilliant creative solution from a crap one.

2. Brevity

A brief is called a brief because it should be brief.

Overloading the creative team with loads of unnecessary information or pages of waffle-bollocks will inevitably reduce the clarity of the brief – and I’ve just explained where that will lead.

So the brief-writer’s job is to boil everything down to it’s simplest form, removing anything that distracts from the task in front of the creative team.

What you leave out is as important as what you put into a brief. As a rule of thumb, a brief should never be more than 2 pages long at the very most (Don Draper would probably slap me for writing that, in his day a brief was never more than a page long).

If you need more than that to get the info across, it’s time to take something out.

3. Inspiration

Over the course of my career I’ve seen a shift towards the perception that the creative brief is a form to be filled in.

Newsflash: It definitely isn’t.

A brilliant creative brief will inspire the recipient of the brief to think bigger, more originally, more creatively about the solution.

That inspiration can come from all sorts of places, from the physical location you deliver the brief (I once briefed a team on a bleach product in a toilet!) to references you put in the brief, to the way the brief is written and delivered verbally.

Whichever ways you choose to inspire the team, the rewards are obvious: your brief will get a greater share of the creatives’ headspace, you’ll send them a psychological signal about the kind of answers you’re looking for and you’ll offer a better environment for free thinking to flourish.

There’s more of course…

Alongside these three traits, a good creative brief will give insights on the target audience, the budget & time available and so much more.

But if you can weave clarity, brevity and inspiration into your briefs, you’ll undoubtedly get some brilliant work as a result.