What is a creative brief and why does it matter?
A creative brief condenses the very essence of a project into a single document. It operates as a launching point for a creative team’s brainstorming efforts by providing valuable information about the project, the client, and the target audience. It keeps the creative team on the same page while finding their way to the best possible solutions.
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A good brief is concise, insightful, and inspiring. It asserts compelling questions, establishes the tone, and imparts a vision without debilitating the team. The goal is to lay out a roadmap, not a railroad track. Limitations should act as guiding forces rather than barriers. They become assets to the creative process, often inspiring a solution that may not have arisen without the challenge.
To some, conducting a creative brief may seem like a waste of time. On the contrary, it often saves it. The direction and goal of the project is clarified by eliminating unclear, fluffy language and providing a strategy to compare the creative against. Without a brief, teams often end up spending additional money producing round upon round of changes, which didn’t hit a mark the team was able to see to begin with.
While the audience of the brief is not the client, it’s a great place to involve everyone in the process. This helps avoid scope creep, increase buy-in by allowing stakeholders to provide input, and justifies creative decisions. It also holds the creative team accountable and provides a rubric for what success looks like.
Who writes it?
In larger teams, the creative brief is often written by the account manager or a planner. In smaller teams, that job may fall to the project lead or the person who acts as the point of contact. This person would speak with the client, preferably in person, and extract as much information as they possibly can. What, why, when, how much, and for whom? They should glean a full understanding of the company, the product, its target audience, the market, and the goals of the project to the fullest extent.
That person takes all of the information and condenses it to the most useful, actionable substance for the creative team to digest. The “essentials” will vary from project to project, so teams should avoid treating the brief as a copy-paste chore that exists merely as an exercise of filling in the blanks. Uninspired writing will yield an uninspired team.
What does it look like?
Below are some touchpoints commonly found in a creative brief. Some people choose to include more information, but most will recommend cutting any and all extraneous information. The word is in the name, “brief.” Any “extra” information, such as additional research, exact specifications, timelines, etc. can exist as supporting documentation.
- Who is the client? Are there any interesting/inspiring/relevant stories involved with their history?
- What is the product or service? How was it thought of?
- SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) Analysis
- What is being made?
- What is the purpose of the work?
Examples: (Launch a new product or service, change perception of a brand, expand market to new audiences, boost website traffic, etc.)
3. Target Audience
- Who are they? How do they think of themselves?
- What kind of lives do they live? How will this product fit into their lives?
- Why should they care? What are their pain points? How will this product help?
- Who are they? What differentiates them?
Single Minded Proposition (Also called Unique Selling Proposition or Key Message) One sentence/thought conveying the most important idea.
- What exactly is being said?
- Tone/voice and key words
- What should the target audience do? How should they feel after viewing the creative?
- What are the most compelling reasons, emotional or rational, to believe, to buy?
7. Look and feel
- Ideas for “visual tone,” such as color story and style
- Required elements such as taglines or product photographs
- Constraints of the project that might affect the general creative direction, such as a limited budget or tight deadline
- Don’t assume any prior knowledge. Keep the language simple.
- Assert how closely or loosely any specific direction should be followed.
- When editing, try your best to remove all unnecessary detail and information. Really consider what is important to the creative team. Shoot for one page if possible.
- Look at other creative briefs in the wild.
CATMEDIA is an award-winning Inc. 500 company based in Atlanta, Georgia. Founded in 1997, the company specializes in advertising, creative services, media production, program management, training, and human resource management. As a Women Owned Small Business (WOSB), CATMEDIA provides world-class customer service and innovative solutions to government and commercial clients. Current CATMEDIA clients include Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), Office of Personnel Management (OPM), and the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA).