How to Write a Creative Brief: A 5-Step Process of Writing a Great One

Date: January 25, 2017

Creative Brief Definition

What is a creative brief? A creative brief is a document created within a few meeting between a brand client and their advertising agency of choice. The meetings outline a plan for an original campaign to push a product or message out into the public, and the creative brief is the culmination of the decisions made in those meetings, along with some creative direction from the person heading the team — usually the Creative Director. The brief fleshes out all of the ideas but does so without focusing too much on the logistics of the ideas.

Creative Brief Types

  1. The creative brief outlines the information and objectives to inspire the creative idea.
  2. The communications brief summarizes the current state of the consumer and spells out how to improve upon this state with the client’s products or services.
  3. The manifesto is both a written and a visual statement used to help internal and external audiences understand the brand. In that way, it’s like a mission statement for a particular product.

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Purpose and Role of Creative Brief

The creative brief is collaborated on by the entire team — creative director, copywriter, and designer. There may be other members that make up the core group, and they will also contribute, but the essential ingredients are a visual person, a writer, and an overseer.

The document lets the client know that the agency has heard their “pains” and not only do they understand how the client wants to carry out their campaign but they know how to elevate those initial criteria without disrupting the message or budget.

The final document gets presented after a short period has elapsed following the last idea meeting. The turnaround is usually tight, and that’s sometimes why additional help is needed — maybe by a creative brief writing company — to make sure it is put together in time.

5 Steps to Writing an Excellent Creative Brief

Step 1: Dissect the problem you are trying to solve and decide on the products “noble purpose.”

Get to know the point of pain that the product or service addresses and who is most likely to feel that pain enough to purchase something to solve it. Look at what their options are now and how the option in question differs from the rest. Ask: what can you use to leverage this product’s differences for the benefit of the end user. Furthermore, ask how you can communicate those differences in the most appealing way.

Step 2: Gather insights, data, sources, and case studies.

The creative brief must be visionary and backed up with solid findings to help the client see why the solution being proposed is undeniably viable.

Step 3: Determine what should be said and how it should be said.

In this step, you are deciding on the message and the medium. While the actual vehicle — television, radio, social media — may have already been chosen, you can make further decisions like the time of day the campaign will air, the countries where it will be distributed, and how to integrate it with mobile technology.

Step 4: Write, write, write. And then discuss with the team and revise.

Make sure you have all of the essential touchstones for the creative brief listed in the following section and review. The writing is the hardest part, but it’s where all the magic happens.

Step 5: Format the creative brief.

Use some images that help illustrate the ideas you are putting forward. Keep the images sparse, only using them when you want to make a clear connection between the client between their product and your ideas.

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What to Include in a Creative Brief

The following are the key elements of the creative brief but as every brief is different not every presentation will have the inclusions marked below as “optional.”

1. Background information on the brand, product or service in question

2. Insight into the target demographic and the part of their lives that is affected by the product or service

3. Brand mission, product attributes and any “new and improved” characteristics

4. Competitive landscape and stats associated with the direct competition

5. Objectives of the campaign

6. Compelling offers and suggested calls to action

7. Metrics for success (optional)

8. Case studies and supporting data (optional)

9. Timelines (optional)

10. Budget (optional)

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What Makes a Great Creative Brief?

A great creative brief is one compelling enough to keep the client on at the agency. Clients only choose one agency per brand as the Agency of Record (AOR), and those decisions take a lot of time — sometimes the agency wooing the client — and legalese to form the bond. No one wants that bond to break based on a poorly written creative brief.

The client is looking for exactly what they asked for during the campaign planning meetings, and an extension of those ideas based on what the ad agency deems to be innovative, attention-grabbing, and profitable for the time.

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