Show Me Yours and I’ll Show You Mine

show us your briefsWhen I talk to marketers about their creative briefs the responses I get are about as diverse as the undie aisle at Target.  Their briefs come in all shapes, styles, and sizes and only the most brave and defiant don’t bother to use briefs at all.  Some will preach on about the virtue of briefs and their necessary role in covering the company’s marketing essentials.  Most complain their creative briefs offer too little support and grant their agencies too much creative freedom, while others believe their briefs are too confining and restrictive to the marketing and creative process.  Rarely do you find the company that is truly comfortable with their creative briefs. They often have entertaining stories to tell about their own briefs shortcomings.

creative brief

According to Wikipedia

Creative briefs can come in many flavors and are usually tailored to the agency or group that is developing the creative deliverable. They know which questions (and answers) are of paramount importance to them in order to deliver a high-quality creative execution. (emphasis mine)

I wonder how many marketers would agree that the questions on most creative briefs result in high quality creative execution, my guess is I could count them on my fingers. Not that agencies never deliver high quality, but when it happens it is rarely the direct result of the creative brief itself.  As a general rule I find the more cycles it takes to get adequate execution is a reflection of how ineffective that brief is in asking the proper questions.

On the other side of the fence, the agency or creative departments are usually painfully aware of the inability of the typical creative brief to communicate marketing’s needs, and even a well thought out creative brief is only as good as the ability of the marketer requesting the creative to fill it out properly and thoroughly.   Often times the marketer, for a host of reasons, doesn’t know how to articulate precisely what they need.  The results are usually hilarious.

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At the end of day creative briefs are seen as a necessary evil by both sides.  At best they are a great starting point for creative execution, at worst they hamper and impede progress.  But we shouldn’t blame creative briefs for the problem, they have a thankless job.  It can’t be fun to be that thin barrier between our marketing efforts and the critical and mocking public eye.

Many of the clients we work with are struggling with creative execution, and inevitably we find their creative briefs to be one the culprits.  They provide too little customer context and too much jargon and noise to guide anything but the most simple of creatives, and sometimes not even that.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

So at the risk of sounding forward, I would like to see your briefs.  In fact, I have set up a shared Dropbox where you can drop your briefs. Along with your briefs feel free to send along comments and stories about them.  I want to hear it all, the good and the bad.

In my next column I will share some of these briefs along with some guidance on how to make your creative briefs more supportive of your efforts.

Please share if you think others would benefit.