A creative brief is many things: a road map for your brand, an inspiring argument, driving directions for creatives.
But a brief must also, and most importantly, help creatives come up with ideas that sell the product.
“If it doesn’t sell, it’s not creative,” said David Ogilvy, whose words tend to be forgotten today.
Sadly, the notion of selling is out of favor. The verb “sell” has become a four-letter word among too many in the advertising industry.
This isn’t an idle opinion. Steve Harrison’s cogent book can’t sell won’t sell argues this very point. Its subhead sums up his message: “Advertising, politics and culture wars. Why adland has stopped selling and started saving the world.”
Look at the featured “new” creative on AdAge or Communication Arts. Where are the campaigns for tooth paste, frozen peas, accounting firms or fertilizer? You won’t find them.
Instead, these industry publications show off advertising for social issues, non-profits, or the latest hipster message from Nike.
When I talk to college students who study advertising in hopes of making it their career, I recently began asking a question at the top of my presentation: How many of you call yourself a capitalist?
In a classroom of around 20-odd students, maybe three raised their hands.
Whether this reluctance is due to ideology or ignorance is a valid issue. When I quizzed the instructor later, he told me that in the next class after my appearance, he and his students discuss my question. When the instructor gives an in-depth definition of capitalism, far more students accept this description for themselves, he tells me. But still not a majority.
A primary job responsibility of all brief writers is to empathize with the customer who will purchase the product they are writing about in their creative brief. But if the idea of “selling” is foreign or, worse, anathema to the brief writer, empathy becomes impossible.
And your briefs will be miserable impersonations of an inspiring selling tool.
If you’re not comfortable selling, choose another profession. Advertising professionals sell stuff. That makes them capitalists. Capitalists sell stuff that profit the companies that make the stuff. Those profits become, in part, salaries. Those salaries pay for mortgages, education, new cars, groceries, vacations, retirements. All those things also employ people who are paid salaries. And on and on.
With apologies to Winston Churchill, “Capitalism is the worst form of economics, except for all the others.”
Advertising is a major cog in the machinery of capitalism. Remember that the next time you write a creative brief.