Most folks look at great advertising as merely the function of right-brain brilliance that gifted MVPs at big fat ad agencies possess. When it really is a culmination of some creative and of a lot of really mundane behind the scenes work.
At the client’s (/brand’s), there are directives to achieve commercial objectives. These could mean hitting awareness home runs, driving home 5X sales, generate million leads, downloads, plenty gobbledygook for a consumer like advertising pro to come around. So to make this daunting S&M (Sales and Marketing) jargon more palatable these business metrics are translated to more appetizing Creative Briefs.
Creative briefers have the responsibility of planting the seed that’ll either stay buried in clutter or bear such creative fruit that it’ll make S&M jargon that preceded it sound prophetic. Imagine the leverage. And now guess where most of them end up.
What is a Tight Creative Brief?
Shankar Sundararaman (Shanx), Regional Head Nokia (Former O&M) suggests that the “Marketer’s Job is to deliver the proposition clearly”.
Usually a proposition is What for What? Meaning an Android phone, screen the size of soap for INR 7XXX.
Andrew Miller a Creative at Wieden+Kennedy desires more. He feels that the creative team is inspired when
The brief feels (culturally) relevant and timely, like it could only be delivered under the current set of circumstances.Andrew Millers
This of course needs a fair bit of research, awareness about the market conditions and the social scene. Akhilesh Bagri, Creative, BBDO, Dubai describes this as “traction”. Both him and Shanx expect the Creative to be propelled above mundane information. While Akhilesh alludes to “a drag race” wherein “some rubber’s already been burnt at the starting point for the vehicle to get a good start” Shanx calls it the “Ramp” for the creative to take leap. Burnt rubber also reminds me of the brief that Sameet Ali Soni, Creative, O&M pointed me to. He said that the Harley Davidson brief (can be googled) could be a model brief –
If that’s legitimate benchmark, we can safely suggest that a tight brief
A commoditized world is frustrating, but it’s also real. So your brief should facilitate a bit of an emotional bias in the mind of your agent, in this case, the creative.
So can you structure a brief in Formats?
Most briefs have starting problems.
When Shreya Lohumi, Creative, Rediffusion, Gurgaon was with Leo Burnett she came across a stellar brief for GM’s, Spark.
“It started out as a case study on the car, the category and the relevant TG itself with interesting presentations that saved us the harassment of a mere data-overload! A lot of it was achieved because for that campaign people genuinely followed Leo Burnett’s standard briefing format (‘Humankind’).
As indicated by the term itself, it implies breaking down jargons and heavy-duty information, rationale etc. into a “simple human benefit”, that gives all the text a purpose – that of stating a simple ‘human benefit’, rather arriving at it.
The above virtually painted a mood”. Needless to say that Shreya delivered big on this. Simply establishing a well understood but naked common ground isn’t enough.
It’s important to identify who’s at the receiving end of the brief.Shanx
Shanx often does different briefs for different agencies as utilization of different media is to be observed tactically. The “proposition” he states though, must not be compromised.
How do you know if the brief you’ve articulated or received is a weak ramp?
If the brief mocks the intelligence of the creative with phrases like “Create some magic”, “go viral” etc. it’s a no go.
According to Shreya, and this is staggering, poor ones have
“Content ‘copied’ and ‘pasted’ from the client’s website with more typos than on the webpage. Obvious behavioral trends making up for sorry insights. Saying too many things at once as against that ‘one thing’ that needs to be said”. The Ramp is missing.
Akhilesh finds the “Open-ended ones” most challenging.
When forced to work within a strict framework, the imagination is taxed to its utmost – and will produce its richest ideas. Given total freedom, the work is likely to sprawl.TS Eliot
You’ll notice that a lot of top agencies do a lot of poor work. They’re not known for it of course, but I would say 70% of their work is average or below. And that’s usually because middleweight brands with tottering guidelines and unclear objectives are unable to construct confident briefs.
Akhilesh elaborates, “What that (open ended brief) leaves the creative with is 3 days of thinking to actually make the brief or rather arrive at a proposition/identify the challenge. Needless to say, leaves very little time to crack a good creative to answer the brief then”.
So as a recipient of a poor brief what must be done?
Pick on the Chineese whisper and as Shreya puts it “tell the Servicing person to f@#$ off..”. What this means is, briefs that raise doubts should also raise questions. Shanx reinforces this,
“If the agency has too many questions, you haven’t done your job creating a solid brief”
One needs to acknowledge that between the client’s research team, through brand manager to servicing and planning the brief’s been defiled and everyone in all likelihood have added their biases.
At the end of the day, there is no Cannes for a good brief, just like there is no reprimand for a bad one. But there are ones for bad creative. So as Creative, its important to “WTF?”.
The Last Word
Contrary to popular knowledge, or pure laziness among marketing folks, creative brethren in the commercial world does not desire an absolutely free hand.
The shout is “give us the freedom of a tight brief”.