Creatives must contribute to the creative brief before the creative briefing.

Well duh. But you’d be surprised how often this seemingly obvious piece of advice is never followed.

I remember a workshop I delivered to an ANA member a few years ago. It was for a national paint brand. When I asked about their existing process, I was told that marketers, who typically wrote briefs for their internal creative department, had about 20 minutes to write a 15-page brief before the kick-off meeting.

Laugh if you want. I tried not to cry. It is an extreme version of what I hear often when I do training.

It was so wrong in so many ways. And they knew it, too, so in at least a tiny sense, these marketers knew the challenge they faced. And that’s why I was there.

As a teacher of brief writing, and more importantly, as a preacher of creative-brief thinking, here’s an inviolate rule:

Creatives must be part of the shaping, if not the writing, of every creative brief.

In other words, sharing the brief at the kick-off of a new project means the brief is a surprise, not the continuation of an existing conversation.

Creatives need to be part of the conversation at its inception. The brief is the first step of the creative process.

Let’s repeat that:

The creative brief is the stepping off point for creatives, the first nudge, the first thinking, about how to solve the communication problem as stated by the brief.

If they’re not involved on day one, the brief suffers. And the work is likely to suffer.

Creatives are the first audience for the brief. They’re not the only audience, but they are the primary audience.

The brief is their fuel.

Marketers throw all kinds of monkey wrenches and obstacles in the path of solving the communication problem when they fail to collaborate with creatives in writing the brief.

Contributions from creatives will make for a better, clearer, more inspiring creative brief. Deny them the opportunity to weigh in and you might as well tie their hands behind their backs.

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