A large number of creative briefs stink, and clients shoulder much of the blame.
That’s the conclusion of a new ANA whitepaper, “Better Creative Briefs,” completed by the ANA Briefing Task Force that was established to provide guidance for developing briefs and optimizing the briefing process.
The task force was comprised of nine ANA members and two ANA staffers, all steeped in the creative brief process. They interviewed 11 subject matter experts – advertisers, agencies, and consultants – in which each of them provided a thoughtful, well-informed perspective to share.
The whitepaper reinforced the findings of a 2015 ANA study among clients and agencies that found an alarming gap between how each side rated the quality of briefs provided by clients to their agencies. In that study, 58 percent of clients believed they provided clear assignment briefings to the agency, while only 27 percent of the agencies agreed.
The brief is a road map and catalyst for creative. A good brief provides useful direction and inspiration that leads to imaginative work. A bad brief can start a time-consuming and expensive process heading off in the wrong direction, leading to many rounds of revisions, confusion, and unnecessary tension in the client/agency relationship. And the final result of a poorly written brief can be subpar creative in the marketplace, which translates into wasted money.
The ANA whitepaper revealed that most marketers don’t set out to write bad briefs, but bad briefs happen for a number of reasons.
Here's what we learned about great briefs:
It’s also essential to keep in mind that a great written brief is just the start. The art of “briefing,” or delivering the brief, is just as critical. The more important the business outcome of the brief, the more important the briefing experience. This should be done in-person in a relevant and inspirational setting with the right people. The briefing should create belief within the agency and connect the creative team emotionally to the assignment.
There is also new thinking about how the creative brief is developed. Traditionally, the client first creates the assignment brief (sometimes called a business or marketing brief) and the agency then produces the creative brief. The new thinking is that there should be one brief — not a client brief and then an agency brief — but one collaborative brief, led by the client. Here, the client writes the brief with input from the agency planner or researcher. The agency may refine the brief, and there is back and forth to ensure alignment on changes, but the client leads the process.
The focus on better creative briefs is an outgrowth of the ANA Masters Circle, a community of chief marketing officers who have developed a 12-point action plan to galvanize the CMO community and drive growth. One of those points focuses on brand and creative excellence. As we heard from one of our members, “We need better business results, which is why we need better briefs.”
Creativity has never been more important than it is today. Consumers are bombarded with thousands of messages a day from hundreds of media sources, and making split-second decisions about which ones to pay attention to. If work isn’t highly creative and engaging, it will be ignored, no matter how much is spent on media. If the work is good, consumers will share it on social media, dramatically amplifying media spend.
Marketers need to understand that in order for their agencies to deliver impactful and engaging work that will deliver a solid ROI, they must provide them with proper direction and guidance. If you want great creative work, you must deliver a great creative brief.