Create more effective advertising by using a creative brief

If you’re an in-house marketing department, either producing your own advertising and marketing campaigns or outsourcing the creative execution to a company like RSM, there is a tool to help you move from strategy to production faster, better and more efficiently:  the creative brief.

So what, exactly, is a creative brief and what does it do?  The creative brief is a structured methodology that formalizes your creative process. In essence, it provides a road map that leads you to more effective, more persuasive advertising. And it gets you there quickly, if you commit to doing it right.

Most creative briefs are simply a list of questions. The key to any brief’s true value lies in asking the right questions. And the key to asking the right questions lies in flexibility. One size does not fit all, not every marketing or advertising project is the same, and every creative initiative requires its own unique approach. So toss aside anything that smacks of being carved in stone and maintain the flexibility to ask the questions that are appropriate to the particular advertisement or campaign you’re working on.

Here are some helpful hints in putting together the framework of your own creative brief:

Regardless of the marketing project, advertising campaign or medium, there are a few basic things that you must know to even begin production.  These include:

Specifications. If you’re designing, say, a graphic advertisement in either print or digital media, at a minimum you must know the dimensions of the ad. If your ad is to be printed, you need to know if it requires a bleed area, and whether it’s 4-color, black & white or something in between. It may seem self-evident that these specs are mandatory before beginning any creative project, but it’s surprising how many want to forge ahead without these most basic of basics.

Deadline. How can you deliver the project on time or manage your work flow if you don’t know the deadline? Again, it’s rudimentary, but if you don’t ask they won’t tell.

There are times when these two questions are really all you need answered, for example when you’re simply resizing a previous ad for a new publication or moving existing creative material into a new format or medium. To complete a full creative brief for redundant projects is obviously a waste of time, so why do it?

Other times, however, you’re starting from scratch and need to gather as much information as you can to produce the dynamic, compelling advertising or marketing material that it’s your job to create. This is when a well-conceived creative brief can prove invaluable in helping you do your job. Here are the questions to which your creative brief can help provide the answers:

Overview.  What’s the big picture here? What’s going on in the market? What’s the big idea? This is the first question to pose as it will help get you started as you dig deeper into . . .

Purpose. What effect should the ad have on your audience?  What do you want them to do?

What we want to say. What is the single most important thing we can say to achieve the above purpose?

Target audience. Who, precisely, are we talking to? Who is our ideal customer? What do we know about them demographically and psychographically? Where are they? What’s important to them? What problems are they trying to solve? What values do they share with you? And how can your marketing message connect the dots with those desires and values?

Rational & emotional reasons to act or believe. What do we want our target audience to think? How do we want them to feel? What emotional connection can we make with our target audience?

What are the considered approaches or devices? What is the best way to deliver your marketing message? Testimonial? Dialogue? Sight gag? Spokesman or mascot? Narrative? The device provides the structure from which you build your persuasive communications. Does that structure allow you to communicate your message in the most effective way?

What is the call to action? What do you want your target audience to do? Call you? Visit your website? Come to your store? Does your communication make it clear what that action step should be? Does it make it easy for your prospects to take that desired action?

Supportive material. What else do you need to complete your project? Do you have the logo or other graphics you need. What about photography, illustrations, locator map, etc.?

Who needs to approve your work? Are you working with an individual? A committee? What about other people on your creative team? If other individuals are going to be critiquing or proofing your copy get them involved early in the game.

Other things to consider. How does this project relate and connect to the overall brand? How does it relate to your strategic marketing plan? How does it compare to what the competition is doing? Are current events happening in the broader world that would make this project inappropriate now? Are there current events that may provide an opportunity?

Again, the key to an effective creative brief is its flexibility; use the above information as a framework to customize your own brief to fit your individual advertising and marketing needs. If used wisely and consistently it can help make your creative execution more efficient, more fun, and more effective.

Categorised in: ,