One of my favorite former bosses used to cover her walls in glossy print ads from high-end fashion magazines. It was advertising eye candy.
Walking into her office warranted long pauses at Hermes scarves, Chanel bags, and Prada shoes. I loved it. Colorful, artistic, beautiful; it was easy to drift to another place.
In one of my zone-out moments, she asked me what the creative brief behind each ad looked like:
• What compelling information was brought to the creative team that inspired an idea?
• What did the creative kickoff meeting look like?
• Did the account team offer experiential tools to ground them in the mind and space of the brand?
• What goals were they trying to achieve, and whom were they trying to reach?
It was a career-changing moment. I realized that the dreaded brief I had to write for yet another men’s razor campaign was actually pretty important. It was in my hands to bring accurate and concise background information to the team, which would in turn inspire great work and wow my client. The ads we love, the ones that make us misty
, and the ones that make us laugh
all started with a creative brief. What did it contain?
As an account person who has worked mostly in the agency environment, I must write kick-ass, rock-solid briefs. I’ve learned that although I have to impress my client, I also have to be an advocate for my team. The balance is important; it’s a combination of thick skin, voice, and perseverance.
The client manager must be adaptable and have a very clear understanding of the goal. I once went more than 27 rounds on a branding assignment, so deep-rooted patience is also essential.
The creative brief is relatively new to PR, but as agencies diversify and enter the category of “full service,” graphic elements are important tools to use across multiple platforms.
Some important principles when writing:
Don’t send your team members off in different directions. Explorations can get out of hand. It’s your job to keep it reined in and on time.
Keep it succinct.
Your brief should be just that: brief.
Outline the situation.
Allow your team to understand the “why” behind the work.
I worked with an art director who managed to incorporate ninjas into every round-one sketch. Hilarious, but usually off the mark.
Define your target and the main takeaway.
To whom are you talking? What message should resonate?
Outline insights, thought starters, and considerations.
Arm your team with as much information as possible. It will make the work that much better.
Specify a timeline.
Deadline surprises are the worst. Establish a schedule up front so that everyone is held accountable.
An account director I worked with brought beer to every creative kickoff. He scheduled meetings late in the day so it felt more like happy hour than a stressful to-do list. Encouragement leads to inspiration.
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Come to terms with the fact that you will rarely, if ever, nail it in the first round—and that’s OK.
Liz Bowling is an account director at The Abbi Agency (@theabbiagency). Follow her on Twitter @elizabethb919 and read her other posts on the agency's blog, where a version of this story originally appeared.