Remember your audience.

When you do as much creative-brief training for brands big and small as I have in the past 17 years, you see trends. I could provide a hefty list of the trends I’ve observed, but today I’ll focus on one.


Not the audience for the product, but the audience for the creative brief.

The audience would seem to be obvious. The audience for the brief is the creative department.

Among strategists, who used to be called planners, this fact is in fact obvious. But more and more these days, especially in in-house ad agency settings where strategists are either in short supply or entirely absent, marketers assume the role of writing creative briefs. And because marketers have many other responsibilities than writing briefs, what is obvious to strategists is not always obvious to marketers. Sadly.

A typical question I ask marketers during my training is, “Do you write the brief by yourself?” The answer I hear is “No,” but they mean “Yes.”

My next question is, “Do you collaborate when you write the brief?” The answer is always, “Yes, I do.”

Then I ask, “Describe what you mean by ‘collaborate’?” The answer I get tends to be, “I send it out for comments.”

To whom?

“My boss, a few others.”

This is not collaboration. And if the commenters are senior to the brief writer, guess what happens?

The audience for the brief changes. It’s no longer the creative department. It’s now the boss, who is probably a more senior marketer. And it’s always the boss’ comments that take priority.

The description above is only a variation on a theme.

What does not change is this: Never do these marketers include a creative when they seek input, feedback, comments or anything remotely resembling “collaboration” on a draft of their brief. It is rare indeed for me to hear a marketer say, “Oh, I always loop in my creative department before we show them the brief in the kickoff.”

How quickly the brief morphs.

A creative brief is easy to write. A good, really good, creative brief is hard to write. It is a rare piece of creative because it is the first step in the creative process.

Ask any creative—copywriter, art director, graphic designer, creative director—how often they see an inspiring, well-written brief and the answer is the same everywhere: Once or twice. Maybe never.

Yet creatives are left out of the brief writing process. Why is that?

The creative brief is for creatives, first, second, third, always. It’s not a marketing document. It’s a creative document.

Remember your audience.

And to all a good night…

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