Sharpen your brief writing with this two-step brain teaser

If you were a journalist, what would you read to become a better journalist? News stories. By people recognized as good journalists.tumblr_l3ffdyoMRR1qav9ywo1_1280
If you were a writer of fiction or poetry, what would you read to become a better novelist or poet? Other novelists and poets, of course.

So if you write creative briefs at your ad agency, marketing company or corporation, what do you read to become a better creative brief writer? Great creative briefs? Yes. If you can get your hands on them.

If you can’t, then what?

I recommend that you “read” great ads and do a simple, two-step brain teaser.

In the study of literature, it’s called “close reading.” The principle is the same in “reading” an advertisement. But to make this process work for you, I suggest that you take a passive approach. In fact, I urge you to be as passive as you can be.

Why? You’ll see.

This exercise works with any kind of ad, but I recommend you start with a television spot. Since I’ve asked you to take the passive approach, watching tv instantly puts you in the right frame of mind. Find your fave lounge chair or sofa or pillow, get comfy and wait.

When a tv spot airs, don’t move. Just let it happen. Exert as little energy as possible. Think “passive.”

You may have to practice this a few times to get it right. You’ll have to resist the urge to get up and hit the kitchen. Just veg while the :30 rolls past your brain.

So when you’ve got this form mastered, and you’re ready to engage the television spot as passively as you can, watch another commercial and answer two questions.

1. What is the point?

Try to figure this out by exerting as few neutrons of brain activity as possible. Don’t get all ad-fixated and ask, “What is the single-minded proposition?” get-to-the-point

React like a consumer: ironically uncaring, daring the advertiser to break your casual efforts at being disengaged.

You are an ad professional with insights into the process of connecting to a viewer. You have to actively turn off this knowledge. It won’t be easy. But in achieving the task, you will be opening a part of your brain to receiving information on an intuitive level. You are deconstructing the ad and looking for its most basic element: the key message.

But don’t work for it. The idea here is to test the spot’s effectiveness by allowing you brain to absorb the message below the conscious level.

That’s why it’s important to remain passive. If you can figure out what the point of the spot is, two things are apparent.

First, the spot communicated. Second, it was probably clear. If your answer forms a statement, you may have the draft of a single-minded proposition.

If your viewing results in no clear or obvious answer, chances are the spot did not communicate. Or was poorly executed. Or was just bad. Or all of the above.

2. Who are they talking to?

Don’t think, “Are they talking to me?” You’re taking a test here. If you can figure out the point of the spot, you should be able to figure out who might be interested. It could be you, but that’s not important.

If the spot were done well and you can figure out the point and who it is engaging, you’re lucky. It’s probably a good spot.

How does all this help you write a better brief?

First, it forces you to think differently. You’re receiving a piece of creative and your critiquing it at a point when it can’t be corrected or rejected, unlike how you might react if your creative team were presenting a rough to you for approval. It’s finished. You are a reviewer, not a consultant/team player.

Ask yourself: If I get the point and it’s clear, does it translate easily into a single-minded proposition? Do you like this SMP? Does the SMP lead you back to the spot you just viewed?

It’s one big circle. Everything has to fit.

You can do this simple, passive exercise with any television spot. Or radio spot. Just remember: You have to turn off your professional insights about advertising and be passive.

It works with a print ad, too, but you can’t be passive. Reading is not a passive activity. If you want a more difficult challenge, open up a glossy magazine and give it a go.

As a creative brief writer, you have to engage your brain everyday, even in a passive activity  I’ve suggested here.writers-block

Rookie or veteran, keep your brief writing muscles honed.


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