7 Tips for a Better Creative Brief

If the content brief is a map, it needs to be good enough for your agency to get you to your destination.

You just finished the first draft of your latest creative brief. You’ve got that feeling like it could be better, but you’re not sure what to change. I know that feeling as much as anyone.

The following advice will help you feel confident when you hit the send button and get your agency started on their next project.creative brief tips big idea

1. Don’t waste time with format and fonts

Changing the layout and fonts in your brief isn’t going to make you feel any better about it. A super-cool font isn’t going to make your content more concise and useful. Resist the urge to make cosmetic changes just for the sake of making changes.

2. Use your network

Find someone you trust in the industry: a mentor, a former co-worker, a friend; and ask them for advice. What was the best creative brief they ever saw? What made it great? What is the worst creative brief they ever saw? Why was it so terrible? Can they review your latest draft? All it takes is one piece of advice to get you where you need to be. People love to tell stories and they want to help, you just have to ask.

3. The key word is “brief” not “creative”

Make the brief as short as possible but not any shorter. Invest your time in making your brief actually brief – concise, tight. One way to do this is to minimize the number of cooks in the kitchen – the more people with approval rights and the ability to contribute, the longer your brief will be. Here’s a thought: Let your reviewers provide input and then ignore it unless it is that jewel you were missing. Ask for forgiveness after the fact. You can get away with it at least once – right?

4. Think about the audience

Is the audience: “everyone”? Seriously, assuming there is a section in your brief dedicated to audience, read it again. Is it “everyone”? If it is, does it need to be? Does this advertising effort really need to reach everyone? If so, think how your agency will deal with that requirement and how that will shape and influence their initial ideas. If your audience is not “everyone”, then who is your audience? Add more detail to the description of your audience until you get to something that you know makes sense.

5. Think about the schedule

Remember, human beings will be responsible for creating the end product that your brief describes. Human beings – like you – that get sick, go on vacation, have good days and bad days. Furthermore, you are asking for something unique that doesn’t exist. Even if the vision of the creative brief is extremely similar to a previous engagement, it’s not exactly the same. And, if it is that similar, does it make sense to do it at all? Altogether, mentally put yourself on your agency’s delivery team and look at the schedule again. Does it make sense?

6. Details and constraints are good

If everything in your brief is open-ended and non-committal, how useful is it? A good map doesn’t tell you what car you should drive and how fast you should travel, but it does tell where you need to turn and the address of your destination. If the brief is a map, it needs to be good enough for your agency to get you to your destination.

7. Don’t let perfection be the enemy of good

The ultimate prize for everyone to keep their collective eyes on is: to get something done. Spending weeks crafting a Pulitzer prize worthy creative brief does little to help raise awareness for a product or drive conversion. Remember, a creative brief is at best a starting point. You want to make the best start you can and then figure the rest out as you go.

Jason Campbell