I’ve been teaching creative brief workshops for 19 years and have traveled many miles, in airplanes and online, to meet many smart and dedicated brand advocates. They all told me they wanted to improve their brief-writing skills. They all wanted to write better creative briefs. I believed them. I always do.
But I’ve also learned a thing or two about intentions. What someone intends and what they do are not always the same thing.
I have learned to detect when someone, or a group of people, say they want to write better briefs when in fact they do not. When they say they believe in the value of the brief when in fact they do not.
Here are the two tells that tip me off every time. They come at me like two-by-fours to my forehead. So if you hear someone say these things out loud, or you catch yourself saying them out loud, please do yourself a favor. Listen. Be honest.
Tell #1: The creative brief is not for creatives, it’s for marketers.
I mean, how obvious is this one? I am amazed, still, that I hear these words spoken out loud. But this belief explains why so many briefs leave creatives confused and almost always uninspired.
Why the speaker speaks these words and with all earnestness does not understand their implications, is no longer a surprise to me. It is a warning shot across my bow: “Beware of dog. You will be bitten.”
We all have seen the results of advertising that talks to itself. In other words, advertising that is written by marketers for marketers, not for real customers.
I don’t watch a lot of live television these days, but when I do, this kind of message is everywhere. When your brief is written by marketers to appeal to marketers, advertising-that-talks-to-itself is no surprise.
Tell #2: “We’d don’t need to invite creatives to your workshop on the creative brief.”
Sometimes I hear this one spoken out loud, but just as often, when I insist that creatives attend, the marketers acquiesce and then no creatives show up. I can only assume they were not invited.
As a former creative, I have always lamented bad briefs and believed I should be part of the brief-writing process. I meet like-minded creatives at every workshop I teach. Of course that would be true or these creatives would not show up at my training.
But I also believe all or most creatives share a similar belief about the brief. They all may not want to be saddled with brief-writing responsibilities, but they want a good brief. A clear brief. If possible, an inspiring brief. We, as creatives, know we can help marketers achieve this result.
When marketers claim they want a better brief and refuse to invite creatives to a training marketers ask for, or conspire to keep creatives away, I see marketers’ true colors.
Change is a difficult thing. It can be painful. And I now have a sure-fire test that tells me when I’m about to encounter resistance. So far, I have plunged ahead and taken the position that it’s my job to overcome that resistance.
And sometimes, after my training if over, I hear that my message was not well received. Rather than listen to the message, they shot the messenger.
It’s not that I didn’t see it coming. And I’m perfectly okay with that.