A global survey shows that marketers write bad briefs. Are strategists’ briefs any better?

All of us in AdLand owe a debt to Matt Davies and Pieter-Paul von Weiler for facilitating a global survey (of English speakers) on the subject of client-generated creative briefs.

The results of this survey are revealing but not surprising: Marketers have not been trained to write briefs and therefore the briefs they present to their creative partners fail on many levels, most importantly in the areas of strategy, clarity and inspiring language.

Worse, marketers admit (9 out of 10, according to the survey) that they change their briefs after briefing in their creatives, and 60% say they use the creative process to figure out their strategy.

As a former creative with 26 years under my belt, first as a copywriter, later as a creative director, I know from personal experience as well as decades of anecdotes from fellow creatives, that creatives everywhere have complained about bad briefs. This fact is nothing new.

A friend I met on LinkedIn and who was a guest on The Brief Bros., a podcast I co-host with Henry Gomez, posed a fascinating question in his own training sessions that I have stolen and used many times. The friend is Vivek Kuchibhotla and the question he asked is this:

“Creatives, how many times have you worked from an inspiring creative brief: one in 10 times, three in 10 times, 7 in ten times?”

Can you guess the answer? Creatives he spoke to told him “fewer than one in 10 times” had they read and worked from an “inspiring” creative brief. Ever.

I’ve asked creatives in my workshops, on-site and virtual, the same question. I’ve received the same answer: fewer than one in ten times.

These creatives have worked in both traditional ad agencies and in-house shops. And remember, I teach creative brief writing as a former creative, not as a strategist.

So it begs the question, it screams the question: If marketers write bad briefs, and creatives rarely see a good brief, strategists have some explaining to do, right? They’re the ones trained to write creative briefs. They populate the strategy departments of ad agencies across the globe.

Matt Davies and Pieter-Paul von Weiler, strategists in Australia and the UK, asked important questions, but they didn’t put the shoe on the other foot.

Thanks for getting the conversation started, Matt and Pieter-Paul. But maybe it’s time we ask more questions.

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