Want Better Advertising? Write Better Briefs!

Last week, I wrote about the relative lack of attention to the creative output of agencies,who are paying too much attention to tech, data and digital in general, while all the time keeping a watchful eye on the bottom line.

Marketers are equally at fault, as they, too, spend too much time worrying about digital, and creating what P&G’s Chief Brand Officer Mark Pritchard called “crap” and “noise,” speaking at the annual Association of National Advertisers meeting.

Well, if you want to avoid “crap” and “noise,” start by delivering an awesome brief. Here are a few pointers to get you started:

Write for the consumer, not the brand or the campaign. Too often, briefings are written from the brand or (worse!) campaign perspective: “The campaign is intended to run through the summer months with an emphasis on July, and will consist of TV, social and search media, augmented with in-store activation.” There: briefing done! (Not.)



Use consumer language. Most of the time, the briefing is written by marketers for agency folk, or they write the brief jointly. That is why briefings are full of marketing terminology instead of language that helps creatives understand what the consumer is supposed to think, feel or do.

Deliver a genuine insight, or allow the agency to find one. This is one of the hardest things to do. “The population is aging” is not an insight, but a fact. What it means for your consumers, and how they react, respond or adjust their lives to their age could point the way to an insight. A good insight can be worth millions of dollars (Nike’s “Run” events, MasterCard’s “Priceless” strategy, etc.). Insights should not be confused with campaign planning or creative executions. Since this is an essential step, build time into the schedule to discover insights. Craft the story before you create storyboards.

You can’t have too much information about the consumer. In today’s world, we know so much about the consumer, so deliver all you have. Yes, age is important, but share what you know about what your consumer does, thinks, believes, is motivated by, and so on. Where does she spend time, what is she passionate about? What kind of household does she live in? The better you can paint the picture of the group of people you are after, the higher the chances are of connecting with them in a meaningful, acceptable and engaging way.

Deliver your brief in person. The aim of your briefing session is to make it feel not like a meeting, but like an event. If you brief via email, or while having a hallway chat, shame on you. For those briefings that aim to deliver big, go big. Go out and brief where your consumers are.

Be realistic. Sure, you want to conquer the world — but if your budget only allows for Iowa, make sure the agency knows. Challenging the agency with “dream big” briefings can result in magical plans that then, sadly, must come crashing down in reality. That’s wasted time and energy for everyone involved. Equally, “stretch briefings” aren’t helpful, either. Stretching a budget for Iowa to national coverage will result in a plan that will most likely only deliver what P&G’s Pritchard called “noise” (and is probably “crap” to boot).

1 comment about "Want Better Advertising? Write Better Briefs!".
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  1. Garrett Donaldson from JKR Advertising & Marketing, October 25, 2016 at 9:25 a.m.

    A long time ago, when I was a substitute teacher, another teacher who was kind enough to coach me advised that to better understand elementary school kids, it was more important to see what the child sees, than merely seeing the child.

    Substitute the word customer for the word child, and you will have the beginnings of a good , useful brief.

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