Key Information Your Creative Brief Must Have

The creative brief is the seedling from which all advertising and marketing campaigns spring to life. Depending on that seedling you may end up growing a flourishing rose garden or a tangled mess of weeds. In other words, a badly written brief will lead to misdirected creative and more often than not, an unsuccessful campaign. Even the best creative team cannot undo the damage of a carelessly composed brief. Keep reading to explore the key elements of a creative brief in this article.

What is a creative brief in marketing? 

A creative brief is a document that discusses the goals and objectives of a creative, marketing, advertising, or design project. The purpose of a brief is to achieve stakeholder alignment on a project before it begins.

A creative brief in advertising helps both agency and client set mutual agreements on expectations, deliverables, and deadlines that get everyone on the same page from the start. With a good brief, tasks can be performed correctly and to the right quality. 

While the concept of creating a brief may sound simple, it can be hard to cover every detail in just 1 or 2 pages, especially for complex marketing campaigns with various deliverables. A good brief gives your team a clear direction to formulate their creative ideas and bring the campaign to success. 

In contrast, when a client is dissatisfied with a piece of work, there may be a poor brief to blame.

Why are there so many ineffective creative briefs out there? It can be down to a variety of reasons: time pressures, lack of effort, an account management oversight or sometimes people just may not fully understand how powerful a well-written brief can be. It takes time and a lot of thought to create a useful brief, so make sure you give it the energy it deserves!

How to create an advertising creative brief

Asking the right questions is essential to create an effective creative brief. Usually, you need to define the who, what, when, where, and how of the deliverables. 

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There are several steps involved in preparing to create a great creative brief:

  • Talk to the client and ask them lots of questions.
  • Research the product or service; get to know it personally!
  • Research the competition; know what you are selling against.
  • Research your audience.

Once you have done this you can start putting pen to paper.

Here are some of the main points your marketing creative brief must capture: 

1. What is the purpose/outcome of this campaign?

This is hugely important, as it will drive the direction, style and creativity of the project.

In this step, you specify the project name and the objectives of the campaign. Make sure your creative team understands the following creative brief questions:

  • What are the client’s pain points?
  • Why this project is important? How does it help solve the client’s problems?
  • What are the opportunities and risks of the project?

However, you don’t need to jot down every little detail. Just focus on the most important information that will help your team accomplish great work.

2. What is the background/marketplace?

No matter your project is about creating a branding package, optimizing a marketing campaign, or organizing a PR event, you need to include the context in your agency brief. This can be information of the client’s company profile, history, and brand positioning.

Giving your creative team insight into the current market and any issues within the environment will allow them to prepare their creative from an informed position. It will give them a good starting point for the campaign and will help them to avoid any snags along the way.

3. Who are we talking to?

This is where you can provide your research about the audience. Be specific here. Describe the demographic with insights into their behavior, shopping patterns, feelings etc. Provide detail in particular about their interaction with the client’s product/service.

The more detailed this section, the more comprehensively your team can understand the customer’s motivation and psychographics, and the reasons behind their purchase decisions. Moreover, it helps you determine suitable pricing that meets the target audience.

4. Who are the competitors?

Once you’ve determined your target audience, think about who offer similar products or services that you’ll be competing against. Attach a list of the main rivals to your advertising brief, including links to review their products and what customers think about them. Make a quick evaluation on: 

  • How are they doing on business and their marketing attempts?
  • What are their strengths and good points that you can learn from?
  • What do they need to improve?

From there, you can study the market gaps and select a key positioning that differentiate your campaign from the competitors.

5. What is the unique selling proposition? (The unique product benefit that the competition cannot claim)

This is the meat of your advertising creative brief. It is where your research has brought you. It will be your campaign strategy. This is a condensed, one liner that will capture the essence of your project. As such, this should take the most amount of time to come up with.

Some great examples are:

  • Domino’s Pizza: “You get fresh, hot pizza delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less—or it’s free.”
  • FedEx: “When your package absolutely, positively has to get there overnight.”
  • M&M’s: “Melts in your mouth, not in your hand.”

6. What are the reasons the audience should believe in your client’s product/service?

These will be supplemental arguments for your USP. They will back up the USP and help to drive the campaign strategy forward. 

To create the key message for your campaign, remember to include the customers’ pain points and concentrate on their experience. Then, you can showcase how the product or service resolves those issues and boosts their experience. Adopt a customer-centric approach for your message to succeed. Instead of talking about a long list of product features that may be overwhelming, choose the most unique benefit that will impress customers and make them remember the brand. Make this clear in your marketing brief to steer the creative process in the right direction.

7. Identify the Tone and Style

This goes back to step 3 – you must know who you’re talking to before choosing an appropriate tone of voice. For agencies constantly work with new brands on every project, you must clarify the tone and visual style of your client’s company, such as font, size, color, logo, etc.  

Make sure you are consistent in the voice used throughout the marketing campaign, and it aligns with the client’s brand personality.

8. Know the Right Call to Action

Any advertising campaign has a purpose. You’re only looking for the audience’s attention, you need them to take a specific action, such as to follow, subscribe, send a message, or click purchase. That’s why you need a clear call to action (CTA), which should drive the project’s objectives. This is how you can measure the performance of your campaign, for example, the number of new followers, cost per click, cost per acquisition, etc. depending on your goals.

9. Marketing Distribution Plan

Create a distribution plan of how you’ll reach the target audience with your work and messages. Identify the channels or platforms will be used in your campaign to advertise the brand and promote the products. It can include online channels like social media, website, partnership with KOLs, or offline channels like billboards, newspapers, and physical stores, depending on your target customers.

10. What are the deliverables of this campaign?

How will the campaign be delivered? Print, Web, Outdoor, TV etc. You need to agree with the clients on their expectations of what you will deliver. This will set a clear understanding from both parties and avoid any surprises due to miscommunication.

7. When and how much?

You can choose to add a schedule of deliverables here as well as the budget. This will help your creative team to work within deadlines and ensure that they can stay on budget (as much as possible).

Include the key milestones and deadlines in your marketing campaign brief. Here’re some key timings to get the entire team to collaborate:

  • The project start date
  • The deadline for the final version and subtasks
  • The number of iterations allowed 
  • The time for review and approval 

When planning for this section, keep in mind the key actions and dates for the client to maintain the project on track. For example, if a project is in a rush, you must agree on how many days you can afford to receive the client’s feedback. They must understand their part from the beginning so there won’t be any delays in the project because of late feedback. 

In addition, you can write down the budget in the digital agency brief. This gives your team a sense of whether this project is expensive and needs extra effort to handle.

Once you have all this information on paper try to condense it to 1 page if possible. Review with your creative director if you can before you bring it to the client. Get ready to share your creative brief in person, ideally with your client (you want to be there to sell your strategy to your client and answer any questions) and get their sign off.

Get Started with our advertising creative brief templates

Above are 11 key sections that your creative briefs must cover. Include these principles and you can effectively develop advertising briefs for your agency team. Remember that, the perfect creative brief is not built in a day. It takes continuous feedback and fine-tuning to improve your briefs and customize for each project. If you’re new to this task, fuel the design process in your creative agency with our creative brief templates like website creative brief template and creative brief for branding. It can be a good guideline that saves you time. As you create more creative briefs, evaluate which aspects should  be included to keep improving your template.

Fuel the design process in your creative agency with our creative brief templates.

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