Tired Of Not Getting What You Need From Your Agency?

Ed BurghardA brief should never be more than a page because most ads are never more than a page, 30 second TV spot, etc. If we expect creatives to produce a succinct output, there is no excuse to produce a create a brief that doesn’t match this. It simply isn’t fair, and creatives notice.

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Bring Me A Rock

Working with an advertising or promotion Agency can be an extremely frustrating exercise.  You know what you want, but for some reason the Agency never seems to understand your request.  You get trapped in a game of “bring me a rock” where the Agency keeps presenting proposed executions until you either see one you like or are so worn down by the process simply accept one out of frustration.  Neither result leads to a good outcome.

The best way to avoid the “bring me a rock” game is to have clear communication about the expected outcome and operational constraints before a project is even started.  Doing so reduces the number of iterations, time and cost associated with your project.  It allows to to deliver positive results on (or ahead of) schedule and under budget.

The Creative Brief

One of my favorite tools to use in managing Agencies is the Creative Brief.  I like it for two reasons.

  1. It forces you to be clear about what is needed.
  2. It ensures the execution delivers your brand promise in a clear and compelling way.

The Creative Brief is a communication document authored by you and used with the Agency to explain the project you want them to work on and the desired outcomes.  Think of it as a contract that you can refer back to when differences of opinion arise in the creative process.  I find it is important to thoroughly vet the document with the Agency to ensure they understand what you meant.  If any part of the document is ambiguous, it is important to take the time to rewrite it so the ambiguity is eliminated.  It is also important for both you and the Agency to sign the document.  This helps ensure it is a guiding document and not simply an exercise in futility.

Here is an example Creative Brief to illustrate how one is written. (click on the image to make it larger)

Creative Brief

 

Note the different sections.

  • Communication Objective – The message you want the advertising or promotion to deliver.  Often this is your community’s brand promise, but not always.
  • Assignment – A description of what good looks like for a deliverable.
  • Target – The people you are seeking to deliver the message to (be as specific as possible).
  • Prime Prospect – A subset of the Strategic Target that must absolutely engage with and understand the communication.  If you are going to test the effort it would be tested among this group of people.
  • Key Learnings – The important knowledge you have around how your strategic target makes a decision.  Anything you can share with an Agency so they get to know the target better is helpful in the creative process.
  • Insight – Any unique knowledge you have about the real drivers of the actual decision.
  • Benefit – The translation of your communication message into a benefit for this target audience.  Benefits address the question of “Why is this the right choice?”.
  • Reason To Believe – Practical reasons why the target should be confident that the promised benefit is achievable.
  • Brand Character – If your community was a person, the way you’d want it to be perceived.
  • Mandatory Elements – Things you want to dictate into the execution.
  • Budget – The limit you are willing to pay.  If you want to include both design cost and execution cost, be sure to break them out so there is no misunderstanding.

A well crafted Creative Brief forces you to be clear on what you are contracting for.  And, it helps the Agency be clear on what they need to deliver.  This type of up-front clarity makes the entire creative process easier and increases the probability you will get something worth investing promotional dollars behind.

Please Share Your Insights

If you have a favorite tool to help get more value from Agencies, please share in a comment.  And, if you are from an Agency, please share what you like to see in a Creative Brief to help you better meet client needs.

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1 Comment so far

  1. Mike Perry

    September 10, 2014

    From an Agency perspective you’re dead on.

    An Agency relationship is just that. It’s a partnership with a common outcome in mind. The client need to know what is the desired outcome, and the agency then puts their creative forces to work to attain that outcome. With greater detail of the vision comes greater clarity of the best route to take.

    In my opinion clarity of vision is the biggest advantage that an Agency can be given. A big target is easier to hit than a small one. . . .

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