4 Steps to a Tight Creative Brief (& Great Creative) >


david ogilvy“Give me the freedom of a tight brief.” – David Ogilvy

When reviewing our successful campaigns here at BrightWave, often the biggest factor in our level of success or failure is something pretty surprising: the project brief. It seems like such a simple thing…define your audience, your goals and your measurement of success. That’s it. But the devil is in the details.

A broad or vague brief leaves too much to the imagination of those interpreting it. As T.S. Eliot said, “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. Ultimately, the rule is the tighter the brief, the better. 

How to Write a Tight Brief

1. Be honest about the brand and product.
A realistic assessment is the baseline for your analysis. If you’re promoting something that isn’t particularly new or different then put it in the brief. No need to sugarcoat the disadvantages or challenges you’re up against.

2. Define key positioning.
If clients can define their positioning for the campaign both verbally AND visually, then we have a much better chance of understanding the often hard-to-pin-down feedback that can come later, like “We want it to be fun AND daring AND approachable.” Too often, however, these statements are ambiguous and leave too much up for interpretation. Incorporating visuals will make a huge difference. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words, right?

This piece of feedback perfectly sums up what a good brief can avoid:


3. Include all the right information. All of it.

Here are few items to consider:

  • Clear tasks to be completed
  • Audience perceptions to build on (“Where are we today? Where do we want to go?”)
  • Critical insights that link the brand to customers
  • Functional and emotional benefits that will motivate the customer
  • What support is needed to efficiently communicate these benefits
  • What is high priority and what can be sacrificed
  • Your metrics of success

4. Get the creative team’s sign off.
Even the best creative types abhor loose briefs because they know the duds and boring campaigns that result. This is why your creative team should have permission to either push back on a brief or be able to sign off on a tight brief before beginning creative.

How do you know if you’ve been successful? Well, the creatives and account managers and client have all signed off on those success metrics up front, so it should be easy to see how that hard work paid off. See, genius can come from very, very tight parameters.

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