From bad to brilliant – a focus on the creative brief

Posted by Talitha Hlaka on 26 July 2016 2:40 PM CAT

Creatives’ frustration reaches all-time highs when the brief is poor. Whenever they receive a brief that isn’t clear enough, not comprehensive enough or that simply states, ‘make it pretty/funky’ they go into decline and the client expectation of ‘great’ is generally not met.

As part of my regular research to improve my skills as a creative accounts person, I came across a twitter hashtag early in 2015 called #creativeswishtheycouldsay. The things that creatives mentioned on the hashtag were astounding, but true. Some of the comments that stood out for me were ‘#creativeswishtheycouldsay That’s a really bad idea’; ‘#creativeswishtheycouldsay yes it’s cheaper to do it yourself, is it also cheaper to do your own brain surgeryJ’; and one that I responded with ‘#creativeswishtheycouldsay I’m a creative, not a magician!’.

 Even so, I’ve come to realise that an inspired creative person, be it in client service, design, web development etc., will see every bad brief as an opportunity to do something great. This is a perfect time to sell your agency and retain a happy client. Position yourself as a solutions finder and do all you can to get your client to answer questions that will turn a bad brief into a winning brief.

Here’s some of the bad brief examples creatives are exposed to:

  1. The Closed Box. This brief is so tight with no room for creativity.
  2. The Aimless. In this case the client has no clue what they want and finds it hard to provide any useful information.
  3. The Chameleon. Either the brief changes constantly or the client can’t make up their mind.
  4. The 2in1. The client’s brief is full of contradictory information, coming across as two separate briefs.
  5. The Dreamer. The expectation here is so high, almost impossible to achieve due to low budget and tight deadlines.

So, how does an inspired creative turn any of the above bad briefs into something great? Ask as many questions as possible! Get as close to the answer as possible and get the client in a realistic position. A creative brief is one that answers the following:

  1. What is the problem that needs to be solved?
  2.  Who is expressing this problem? Who is the target audience?
  3. What’s hidden under the “problem” that’s really in the way? Go back step 1 and dig deeper into the root of the problem.
  4.  What’s the product/service/brand we are selling as a solution? Keep it clean and simple to understand.
  5. Why should the audience believe us? Rational and emotional reason to buy.
  6. What action do we want the audience to take once they receive our message?
  7. What will tell us that the client’s problem has been solved?
  8. What’s non-negotiable? What must be included in the final project?
  9. Who are client’s competitors? This will help find a differentiating factor and bring it to the surface.
  10. What is your agency’s view point? Always remember that client pays for the agency’s insight and expertise, never be afraid to give an honest opinion.

Clients' briefs are made to inspire. Not to give answers to what needs to be achieved, but to inspire creatives to the point of achievement.



Talitha Hlaka, is Indigo New Media’s head of promotions, account manager and and collaboration champion. Talitha is passionate about digital collaboration and creative design.



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