How to recruit a creative to collaborate on writing a creative brief.

It never made any sense to me that an account planner or account management executive would write a creative brief on his or her own. Yet it’s not uncommon. It’s also a mistake, one that many ad agencies are addressing.
If your agency or marketing firm is not one of them, allow me to suggest three steps you can take to recruit a creative (copywriter, art director or creative director) to be your creative brief-writing partner. I don’t mean a one-time team up. I mean a long-term partnership.

Creatives have had collaborating partners for decades. No one comes up with ideas in the vacuum of solitary effort. The results of creative collaboration reveal themselves daily in ad agencies and corporate environments all across the globe. You, the creative brief writer, must join the party.

1. Find the creative who complains the loudest (or most quietly) about the creative brief.

Before you make your approach, stop and listen. At your next briefing session, pay attention to who dislikes the brief you, or one of your colleagues, present. complainer-657x360

Be careful: The creative who likes a brief least may be the one who says nothing, but sits sullenly and steams. You may have to attend many such briefing sessions to figure out the most likely creative. You may know already without having to think about it.

Believe it or not, hhis is your best collaborating partner.

Understand, some creatives love to complain. They may never be happy with a creative brief. We see so few truly well written briefs that another bad one, even a mediocre brief, merely lives up to expectations.

When you find the right creative, the one who seems like the least approachable candidate, you have to have a plan.

2. Ask this “least likely” creative candidate what she hates the most about your creative brief.

Get your creative to commit to telling you exactly what he/she likes and dislikes most about the creative briefs you’ve written. If you work with the creative, you may already have heard these complaints.

No matter. Ask again. Ask with seriousness. Be proactive. Don’t wait to here complaints. Ask. Expect a clear, direct answer.

My guess is, you’ll disarm this creative by simply asking the questions.

But don’t ask “What would you have written?” kinds of questions. You’ll put the creative on the spot. They may or may not have a good response. Instead, ask process questions: What can I do to arrive at better answers? How could I frame the responses so you get more out of them? Do you have examples of briefs you thought were well written so I could study them?

Your preparing the ground for your ask. You’ll get a sense of how serious this creative is about a the brief, and whether or not the complaints you hear reflect a passion for the process or this creative is simply complaining.

You want to work with someone who cares about the process. Not every creative does.

3. Don’t ask for help. Challenge.

You’ve prepared your ground by asking pertinent questions that will show your creative colleague that you’re interested in making improvements.

Don’t ask for help. Challenge your creative to solve a problem. 30-Day-Challenge-Soldiers1

Creatives, after all, are problem solvers. You are too, of course; that’s why you chose advertising as your profession. But creatives define themselves by those two words. A creative is far more likely to step up if he knows there’s a uniquely difficult problem to overcome.

And remember your objective: To establish a collaborate partnership for the long term. To tap into a creative’s unique insight into the creative process to help the agency deliver selling (and award winning) creative solutions.

There won’t be a learning curve. Creatives work from briefs regularly and know the drill. But getting them to sit with you in the “fill in the blanks” stage will pose a new kind of puzzle for most creatives. Many may claim to have “re-written” lots of creative briefs in their time. This will tell you who’s speaking the truth and who’s blowing smoke. Once they face the pressure of committing words to these difficult questions, they’ll quickly learn what’s at stake.

One last suggestion:

Once you find your creative-brief writing collaborator, insist that he or she briefs the creative team with the brief you wrote together.


It’s about putting her money where her mouth is. When she sees how her fellow creatives react to a brief she co-wrote, or at the very least on which she collaborated, this will communicate to her creative colleagues that she has some skin in the game. It speaks loudly and clearly that your creative collaborator owns (or co-owns) this brief.

It’s called street cred. You’ll get some. The briefing process will get some. The work will get it.

Creative partnerships work. Art directors and copywriters function as teams because together they produce better advertising. Decades of experience proves this.

Creative brief writing must adopt this team-based collaboration now. You can take a step toward this goal. Use these three steps to find, approach and partner with the right creative colleague to make your next creative brief truly inspired.

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