Written by Michael Beckerman on June 28, 2012
in Advertising

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.

  1. 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.
  2. Have a clear, creative approval process. Be clear on who is making the approval decisions and who is being included for informational purposes only.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Background information should be just that – background. In the same way that campaigns are built on beautiful insights, briefs should be the same.
  6. 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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