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Creative Agency Reverse Brief

This proforma has been used by a major creative agency for the taking of client briefs.

Anticipating the information creative agencies require will assist you in providing
appropriate information and thoughtful responses.

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Note to briefer: the best briefs are brief…Take time and trouble to distil the task down
to the very few issues which are insightful, relevant and motivating. Everything else is
background, to be attached. Use the targets’ language.

1. What are the client’s objectives for the job?


If more than one, split into primary and secondary—but note: you can only have one
primary objective.

2. Who are we talking to?


Try to go beyond customer status and demographics—attempt to paint a relevant and
evocative picture of their lifestyle or business.

3. What do they currently think about our sector and our brand?
Both rationally and emotionally—what really turns them on/off—focus on target
perceptions, not reality.

4. What do we want them to think?


What single thought should they take out from our communication?

5. What do we want them to do?


Enquire, visit, buy, change their behaviour?

6. What is the single most important proposition?


What is the one motivating benefit—ideally a word, at most a phrase (if a phrase,
underline the key word). This may be the same as 4 but try hard to go beyond this to
give the creative team an inspired thought—be creative, have a go at the headline.

7. Why should they believe it?


A checklist of benefits for supportive subheads—rank logically. Keep details to
attachment, not here.
8. What is the offer?
What is the special deal for responding now?

9. How should we speak to them?


Tone of voice? What is the brand character? What care, media personality, other brand
could we be?

10.Mandatories
What are the absolutely must-haves?

11.Creative guidelines
What would be smart to have?

12.Requirement
What do we need to deliver—mailpack with leaflet, insert, etc. And to what level of
finish? Very rough, colour finished, subheads, copy outline or full copy?

13.Timings
Brief
Internal Review 1
Internal Review 2
Ready for Client

14.Restrictions
Budget. Photography/illustration. Simple/involved/high impact pack.

15.Background/more details
Attach these. Competitive work? Keep out of brief.
First up, it's worth saying that we don't always use formal written briefs - all very
planning 1.0 ;-).
In good Kids-from-Fame fashion, it's often a case of "let's do the show right here",
particularly for fast track projects. With a little bit of prep, we'll get everyone in a
room - planning, creative, production, directors (if TV) - and bring collective wisdom
and inspiration to bear.
And this marriage of planning and creative, strategy and execution, at an early stage is
very fertile. There's still lots of work done after that, but it's always (and genuinely)
highly collaborative and iterative throughout (I recognise we can only really do this
because of our size: it would probably cause havoc at a (big) hierarchical, Process-
focused agency).
Where time allows tho, we will put together a written brief. However, given the way
we work, this brief operates more as an internal reminder, and as a contract with the
client, than as the 'holy scripture' it is seen as in some agencies.
And even then there isn't necessarily a fixed format: it's what's the best way to express
this challenge on paper. But if all the boxes are ticked (they rarely are), it would look
something like this (a drama in 4 parts)...
Part 1: THE BRAND
What is the essential truth of this brand (boil it all down, and what do you have left)
What is the brand’s agenda, it’s point of view on life?
What’s the brand’s tone of voice and personality?
Part 1: THE CHALLENGE
What’s the problem or opportunity?
What results are we looking for?
Who will we need to engage to deliver this?
What’s the specific role of communications in this?
Part 3: THE STRATEGY
What do we want to talk about? (overview of comms strategy basically)
What is the central thought we want to bring to life?
Supporting facts it’s worth knowing
How do we think this will get people talking about the brand? (cos that word-of-
mouth thing is important, as we all know)
Part 4: PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS
Specific requirements
Must haves and no goes
1. Tell me the problem / opportunity / background.
2. How do people conventionally try to address /communicate the issue?
3. What's the consumer / industry insight that would drive us to think differently?
4. So, what is the Disruptive thought which will help to solve the issue?
5. Support / truth?
6. Who are we trying to persuade with this thought?
7. What's the tone?
8. Suggested channels to reach them?
9. Sacred cows?

'How will success be measured?'


Could be a sales target, could be uplift in hits to wesbite, could be calls
to phone number, could be generate media controversy. But if you don't
know what success looks like, how will you recognise the right idea?

just a view of where are our audiences are now and where do we want to
take them as a result of seeing, being, engaging with whatever it is we
need to make to take them with us.

Random thoughts:
Think outside the box. Any form filling destroys the flame of lived understanding. It's
a vgood discipline to write one, it makes you get your thoughst straight. but then
destroy it and just talk to people instead.
I like Gareth's one best (it's just like the one we had at St Luke's only better/less
hairbrained)
Arent creative brief templates written as a primary expression of an agency (or
consultant's brands)? The good ones always have a proprietary twist. They sort of are
your IP in action. BBH always used to take great pride in the distinction they drew
between "what it the product?" and "what is the brand?". JWT banged on about
having a "key response" box rather than a proposition. BMP had "what do we know
about them that will help us?"
I liked the qu's Thomas Gad asked clients when I worked with him like "What Do you
stand For?" they are all in his first book I think. I remember thinking at the time those
would have made a much better creative brief.
Creative briefs exist to keep clients comfortable during all the anxious waiting while
the creative department are in labour. They should be reassuring, bland and take
months to debate. But they might as well be Soduko puzzles.
My own favourite question recently has been "What is it FOR?" So much stuff gets
churned out with no agenda in the real world. I love for instance that Run London was
FOR getting people to run more in london.
Having said all of which I cranked out my first actual creative brief in ages this week
and - guess what, I gave it very neutral headings like 'objective, target audience' etc.
I am a big fan of original qualitative research - quote it in the brief, chat about it with
everyone, have a rip roaring debrief session - but that's because research makes me
fall in love with the product.
It's important to really know the competitive frame. Don't be daunted if it's huge.
Determine all the psychological barriers to buying the product.
Dig through the data and find something no one's noticed before, don't stop til you do.
A good brief should be easy to understand with a punchy, sticky writing style.
A tv producer said "the cool agencies never pay the full rate. They know if you have
their ad on your reel it will get you more lucrative work."
So, don't worry about the budget if you're in a cool agency, or the idea is stupendous.