The lazy way to write a target-audience description.

Bullets should be banned.

Sorry, gun fans, I don’t mean ammo. I mean those pesky black dots that show up on creative briefs everywhere. Like this:

The bullets are usually followed by useless acronyms and marketing-speak such as HHI, 24-49, and other lingo. This is not thinking, it’s rote nonsense.

Remember what Dave Trott said: “A creative brief is not about writing, it’s about thinking.”

A reliance on bullets is lazy. And it helps no one do better creative.

When I see this kind of garbage on a creative brief, my first conclusion is that the brief writer didn’t give themselves enough time to write the brief. Or they weren’t given enough time. Or they haven’t truly grasped why bullets, or factoids, are two dimensional.

But here’s the thing: the opposite of lazy is not sweat-induced exertion. Oh, no. The opposite of lazy is to be smart. Even a little creative.

Here’s a short passage from a brief written by some smart and creative soul at Leo Burnett for a Proctor and Gambel product we all know and love, Vicks NyQuil. I’ve used this example many times: In my book and in my workshop.

Cold sufferers. You know how you feel when you’ve got a cold — that pathetic little inner-child of yours suddenly wakes up and, before you know it, you’re moaning & whining, you’ve gone all whiney & wimpy, all snivel, snot & slovenly; red raw puffy eyes, pale skin, lank hair — everything seems to be sagging! You feel like something from a Salvador Dali painting; you want to snuggle up in bed and dammit — you want your Mummy! But it’s not fair, is it, because no one else takes your suffering seriously —”Good God, pull yourself together, man, we’re not talking leprosy here! Don’t be such a baby, get on with it, stop moaning!”

Yes, your instincts tell you to be a child, but you’re not allowed to because you’ve “only” (only!) got a cold. And worse still — oh, the cruel irony! — even your attempts to retain your adulthood in the midst of your suffering betrays that sniveling little inner–child of yours: “oh don’t worry about me, I’ll be all right…”, “…no, no, please, I don’t want to sound like a martyr…”, “…well, I’m feeling a little better now, thank you…”

I’m sorry, but when you’ve got a cold you’re doomed to be a Child–Adult.

I mean, how much fun is this?

Notice what’s not here: No age group, no gender, no HHI, no education level. But is it talking to someone we all know? Yes! Probably us! We’ve all had a cold. Plenty of them, too!

The best briefs are singular in every way: the objective, the problem to solve, the single-minded proposition or the one key idea or the single most persuasive idea (the SMP is called lots of different things).

The best briefs talk to everyone by being focused on someone real. The cold sufferer above represents all cold sufferers.

Is this more work? Well, yeah, you have to engage your brain to do this kind of writing. Or as Dave Trott would say, this kind of thinking.

It’s smart thinking. Creative thinking. It allows creatives to be the customer they must talk to with their ideas.

Which kind of brief writer do you want to be?

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