Why are creative briefs hard to write? Because briefs are about good writing.

Some observations about outstanding, inspiring creative briefs.

First, they are short. They fit on one page, maybe a page and a half.

Second, the best ones avoid using bullet points. If they do use bullet points, said bullets are written in complete sentences. At worst, the bullets are memorable phrases.

Third, these great briefs, when you find them, are written in conversational language. Everyday language. The writing is polished. When you read an inspiring brief, you can tell instantly that it’s not a first draft. The writer has sweated the details, the imagery, the message. They use verbs with skill and deliberation.

Fourth, closely related with the third point above, in writing these inspiring briefs in conversational language, the writer never uses marketing jargon, acronyms, insider lingo, anything hinting of business mumbo-jumbo.

Fifth, some of the best briefs I’ve ever read use first-person singular in all the right places. This isn’t a rule or a requirement. Some great briefs never do this. But the writer who knows how to employ first person “I” is speaking as the customer. Not for the customer, but as the customer. Creatives pick up on this and we appreciate it. We start to see the world as the customer does.

Sixth, while great briefs are brief, they are never too short. Some so-called brief writers claim they write single-sentence briefs. Even just a few words. These brief writers are outliers. They claim their creative teams love working with such short briefs. I doubt it. As a former creative, I would not accept such a brief.

I’ve read hundreds of briefs in my quarter-century-plus tenure as a working creative at some of the country’s legacy agencies. I’ve worked with and for some of the best creative leaders, and worked from the briefs of great account planners. Not once in my career have I ever been handed a one-sentence creative brief. Not once have I encountered a one-sentence creative brief. They may exist, but they are just as weak and insufficient as 12-page briefs. Maybe worse because their inadequacies are so glaring.

Great briefs are rare. They are hard to write because they require exceptional writing. Writing of that quality takes time, much noodling and editing and revising. As a copywriter, I spent many hours pouring over my copy, whether it was 50 words or 1,500. I would often sweat over the shorter copy even more than the longer copy.

So I know what a conscientious brief writer goes through in writing a draft brief. Be mindful of this truth next time you read a brief. Especially the next time you assign a new project and decide to skimp on the time you give your brief writers.

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