Written by Michael Beckerman on June 28, 2012
I recall writing my first brief many years ago when I was at NIKE. It was for a basketball campaign in Japan. After I presented it to my Wieden and Kennedy account lead, he asked me, “Do you know why they call it a brief?” I sheepishly looked down at my 40-page deck . He’d made his point.
At Ariad, we say a good brief is like a riddle. And we work to solve that riddle. I see now that my brief should have replaced “Increase basketball market share in Japan and zzzz …” with “How do you make NIKE NBA hoopsters relevant to Japanese youth?” (BTW: I have never read a brief that asked to decrease market share.)
Here are some other things I wish I knew when I was a client:
A good brief is like a riddle, your agency should solve the riddle.
- Share the budget – it will align your agency’s energies and resources to meet the mark, first time. If they are a true partner, they will make your dollars work harder for you.
- Have a clear, creative approval process. Be clear on who is making the approval decisions and who is being included for informational purposes only.
- Do not tolerate the agency cutting and pasting your original brief onto their letterhead for the rebrief (yes, I saw that). Your agency should add value at each step in the process.
- The brief should be used to evaluate the creative. Your creative feedback starts with the question, “Does the idea solve the riddle in a compelling and engaging way?” Then you can talk about colour and logo size.
- Background information should be just that – background. In the same way that campaigns are built on beautiful insights, briefs should be the same.
- The best briefs are insightful, inspiring and creative. The words you use to describe a concept are the same words your agency partner should use to describe your briefs.
By the way, after I took a better shot at a brief, Wieden and Kennedy came up with a concept that had NBA-great Charles Barkley playing one-on-one hoops against Godzilla. It was an award-winning television commercial, that ended up in an event that led to a merchandise plan and a TV show. Yes, sometimes an agency can overcome a weak brief like they did in my case, but a great brief will optimize your budget and also allow you to develop something truly memorable.
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