BOOK EXCERPT: Never write a creative brief by yourself.

From How To Write An Inspired Creative Brief, 3rd Edition, Chapter 8

“Gettin’ good players is easy. Gettin’ ‘em to play together is the hard part.”

— Casey Stengel

NOTE: This chapter was written especially for in-house ad agencies that have not hired a strategist or account planner.

Never write a creative brief by yourself.

Never. Never. Never.

Always collaborate: With another brief writer. With someone on the creative team who’ll be working from your brief. With your boss. I am not suggesting a committee. I am suggesting a team.

Remember: creatives always work in teams. They produce better work that way. Why would it be any different in writing a creative brief?

Account planners have their own thoughts on this subject, and from what I’ve read many are acknowledging the need to deemphasize the silo-ed nature of job responsibilities and are moving toward a team-oriented, collaborative process when it comes to writing a creative brief.

By “silo” I mean that the account planner writes the brief, delivers it to the account management team who then, in tandem with the planner, briefs the creative team. Three separate job responsibilities with nary a word spoken between them before the dramatic creative briefing, which often takes place in some special conference room reserved for big meetings.

It’s still done this way at many agencies. Thankfully, this practice is going the way of the…fill in the blank with your favorite antiquated practice. The point is, it’s going away.

This change reflects the constantly evolving state of things in the ad world, and the nature of how advertisers talk to consumers. So whether you work at an ad agency, a company that hires ad agencies or you’re a creative who works in one or the other environment,

I’m talking to you.

Anything you can do to build trust between the parties involved with the creative process on the agency side and the client side reaps tons of benefits for everyone.

Typically, an advertiser will deliver to its ad agency what’s called a Client Brief. This is the document created by the client outlining the problem it’s asking the ad agency to solve.

The ad agency, in turn, writes its Creative Brief. Think of it as a kind of “call and response” technique. The Client Brief states the problem (call) and the Creative Brief addresses the solution (response). Clearly the content of the Creative Brief will be different from the Client Brief.

And it’s at this intersection where collaboration presents the ripest opportunity. Collaboration not merely between all the players on the ad agency side (planners, account management and creative, which is a good thing all by itself) but between the ad agency and the advertiser.

Contrary to those who might think this kind of partnership diminishes the unique creative “problem solver” position the ad agency believes it must own to sustain its raison d’etre, I believe the collaborative partnering strengthens this position.

According to a paper published in June 2009 by the World Advertising Research Center (WARC) in London by Nick Southgate entitled, “Three key steps to creative briefing,” part of its WARC Best Practice series, all parties acknowledge this development.

Writes Mr. Southgate:

“More and more, both clients and agencies are looking to harness these alternative sources of creativity and put them to work in a creative briefing that is collaborative and collective, rather than linear and sequential.”

So what does this mean for you? If you’re involved in writing the creative brief, begin by inviting others to the task and make it a team effort. Creative briefs are difficult documents to write, and doing it solo is cruel and unusual punishment.

Instead, develop a unique process around your creative brief where the writing of it in a collaborative setting produces not just a good brief, but an inspired brief. A brief that leads to better creative, more effective creative, creative that produces better results, better sales, and more profits.

As David Ogilvy used to say:

“If it doesn’t sell, it’s not creative.”

If the creative brief isn’t creative (or inspired, or inspiring), it won’t produce creative that sells.

And that’s why collaborating on writing a creative brief is so important. 

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