How to write a creative brief that gets results

The magic of creative briefs

Back in the days when I was a young, ambitious advertising executive, I once spent a whole week learning how to write a creative brief. Yes really – a complete full-on Monday-Friday in a hotel, up at 7, bed in the small hours and non-stop presentations, lectures and exercises in between.

Why did they think it worth it?

It must have cost the ad agency I worked for a fortune, but they knew it was worth it. A good creative brief produces thoroughbred creative work. A poor one leads to work that looks like an old donkey. It gets cobbled together and then gets chopped and changed as everyone’s thinking develops on the hoof. (There’s nothing like some finished design work to make people realise, “What we really want to say is…..”)

Why it’s still worth it

Last week, I was reminded again of just how powerful a well-written creative brief can be. I was asked to write a sales letter for a client, a leading supplier of B2B services. The initial ‘brief’ was so woolly and jargon-filled it was impossible to know where to start. Since it was a client I know well (and one who is always keen to save money) I offered him a lower price if he was prepared to do a new creative brief using headings I would supply.

Sheer gold

He agreed, and two days later, I had a brief that was so tight and focused that I was able to do the creative work in half the time (and half the cost). Even better, it was a more powerful communication because the message came zinging across loud and clear from the very first paragraph.

The magic headings of a creative brief template

So how do you go about writing a creative brief? What, in essence, did I take away from my week of high-voltage learning and £££’s of (my former employer’s) money? If you’d like the golden nuggets, without the pain or the expense, here are the headings that I sent my client last week.

Doesn’t it look deceptively simple? I'm sure you've seen similar before, but I find it's the focus on the promise and key messages which makes the biggest difference from other brief templates I've seen.

It’s a bit like the Tardis – not a lot to see on the outside, but if you go inside and start using it, you’ll find hidden worlds.

I've found that this process works for any creative work, from a TV or radio commercial to a website, a landing page, a banner ad, leaflet, brochure or press ad. It always leads to a better end result, whether the work is done in-house or outsourced.
The process makes the difference

As a little footnote, my client said that he’d found the exercise really helpful and inspiring. “I found it a really useful tool because it forced me to think about the sales letter from the point of view of the recipient. Not what I wanted to say but what they wanted to hear.”

He’s now a convert and will be using this framework for all future creative work. However, it’s interesting that it was only when he experienced the process of writing a creative brief that he realised its true value. If you’re not convinced, then I urge you to try using these headings for your next piece of promotional material. I promise you the results will be worth it.

Share your thoughts

  • Lewis Owen commented on May 2, 2016

    Well thanks for posting such an outstanding idea. I like this blog & I like the topic and thinking of making it right.
    Electrical Engineering Assignment Help

    • Mel Henson
      Mel Henson commented on May 2, 2016

      Thanks Lewis – really glad it was helpful. Mel

  • All awesome points and exactly we use at our agency. It’s all about best practices, trust and keeping a really good relationship with the clients. At my job, we are proud of our long term relationships with the people on the other side of the tracks. We make sure they get what they ask for plus more. Definitely agreeing with Jim that the more you share the better it is from both ends. To add, make sure everything is documented to check each other on what decisions have been made and why.

    • Thanks for your kind comments, Angela. I agree with you about documenting and getting agreement. It’s really helpful when the creative work is produced to be able to evaluate it against a brief, especially one that everyone is on board with.

  • It’s a detailed step by step guide. Thanks for providing such a beautiful information.

  • Above mentioned creative brief along with the description has been added here for presenting the scenario in terms of any application plus the process of learning any new lesson it is one of the best part to make it more reliable and comfortable for the students as well as the new leaner. This template is too much contemporary to learn and to educate others. Great way out for the students. Thanks for sharing.

  • Georgia commented on June 3, 2014

    Also… Parameters*, not Perameters. Kills the credibility 🙂

    • rachybaby commented on October 3, 2014

      I didn’t even notice Perameter, and I can spell well, so nothing was killed for me.

      Actually, credibility is really only killed when the substance, or lack thereof, isn’t credible; not when a typo or brain freeze occurs. Just sayin’ (I meant to leave out the ‘g’).

  • Anthony commented on March 11, 2013

    I think it’s written TARDIS, since it’s an acronym =)

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