Think you know what a creative brief is? Allow me to surprise you.

What’s your definition of a creative brief?

If you say it’s a road map for your creative team about your product, not bad.

If you call it your brand’s North Star, I’d say good answer.

But I want you to think differently about the brief. Here’s a twist I’d like you to consider:

A creative brief is an argument.

Think back to your days in school. You might have studied something called rhetoric. Or it might have been called “composition.”

When we wrote an essay, we were told to use the first paragraph to arrive at our “thesis.” This is your argument. An argument is when you take a clear position on a topic. You make a “claim” about something (Pineapple is the worst-ever ingredient on a pizza) and support it with evidence (Pineapple, yuck. Pepperoni, woo-hoo!)

I’d like you to stop and think about this for a moment. We have lots of notions about what a brief is and what it’s supposed to accomplish. At its most basic level, however, “making an argument” is what a good creative brief does. It makes a claim about a product.

The worst creative briefs are bad for many reasons. What sits at the top of the list is a lack of a clear position for the product. You could also say the answer to the question the customer asks: What’s in it for me?

This lack of clarity results because we cram too much information into our briefs. What should fit on a single page swells to many pages. Any claim about the product disappears in the fog of factoids.

Sometimes a missing claim happens by accident, sometimes on purpose.

My favorite story about willful avoidance of a claim comes from a CMO who told me, without a trace of irony, that his product did not have “one” thing to say, but instead offered a “unique package of features.”

I admired the CMO’s loyalty to his brand, but not his inability to see his product from the perspective of his customer.

A creative brief is an argument for your product because it makes a claim supported by evidence.

I’d add one important adjective: A creative brief is an “inspiring” argument for your product because it makes a claim supported by evidence.

Your claim is the one persuasive thing you can say about the product. I prefer the “single-minded proposition,” but your brief may use a different descriptor.

The supporting evidence is the answers to the other questions on your brief: Why are we advertising? Who are we talking to? What do they think now? How do we want them to think after seeing the advertising? What’s going on in the market place? Why should they believe our claim? There may be more questions, or fewer, depending on your brief.

The point to remember is that your brief-as-argument is for creatives. Inspire them with an argument that makes a serious, definable claim. In other words, your claim (SMP) must be memorable, the “first ad” to quote Sir John Hegarty.

A creative brief is an inspiring argument. Make a claim. Back it up.

This is a clear path to follow whenever you write a brief. It will serve you well.

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