Who decides when a creative brief is “inspiring”?

Allow me to share with you a recurring sentiment I hear during my creative brief workshops when I show marketers and account people examples of well-written creative briefs.

I hear this comment often enough to have made note of it even if I don’t hear it at every training.

When I present one of these briefs and ask questions about it to provoke a conversation, this is what I sometimes hear:

“I don’t think it’s very inspiring.”

When I ask why the speaker feels this way, the answer I usually get is:

“Well, I get that the wording is clear enough, but it’s not all that exciting…”

I also hear a few options for “exciting,” such as “creative” or “meaningful” or “helpful.”

Then I turn to creatives in the room and ask them for their assessment of my sample briefs. Almost universally, I hear:

“I can work with this.”

“Yeah, I’m already ideating.”

“I wish our briefs were this good.”

Same briefs, different takes. I was baffled by this dichotomy, as if one group spoke a different language from the other. And that’s when it hit me. Creatives and non-creatives do indeed speak different languages. Not like Greek versus Latin. But English versus clear English. Marketing-lingo English versus colloquial English.

Marketers often mistake clear, simple, uncomplicated language for boring or uninformative. Creatives, on the other hand, find gold in the simplicity of clear language.


Because, as I can attest personally after a 26-year career as a copywriter, clear, simple language on a brief is rare. Some might say extinct.

So to the handful of marketers and account folks who write briefs and who do not see inspiration in clear language, my advice as a teacher is:

Show a draft of your brief to a creative and ask for their feedback.

The document is called a “creative” brief for a reason. Its audience is creatives. When marketers forget this truth, they write to a different audience: their boss, themselves, other marketers, all of the above. Not to the audience charged with turning the brief into a creative campaign that sells product.

Here’s another piece of advice: If you wait until the project kickoff to show your brief to the creative teams assigned to your project, it’s too late. You’ll be able to read their reactions to your brief by their body language. And if they don’t like it, find it uninspiring and unclear, which is what they probably expect because they’ve had so few examples of anything better, you’ll see their disappointment instantly.

The creative brief is the first step in the creative process. It demands creativity in its creation. It requires its author(s) to be creative and to be good writers. Make certain you deliver the best writing possible. And one way to insure that outcome is to collaborate with your creative director and let him/her see your early draft. Ask for feedback and listen to what you hear. Write a new draft and show it to your CD again.

And again. And again. Creatives know the difference between a polished draft and a first draft.

The brief is for creatives. They will tell you if it’s inspiring. Or not.

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