How to Write Creative Briefs That Actually Inspire Creativity

July 12, 2016

By Jane Maas, ANA Faculty

Among all the difficult tasks that face modern marketers, writing an effective creative brief has to be near the top of the list. Creative briefs need to synthesize complex ideas into clear direction that focuses the creative team on the job to be done.

Here are five guidelines many brief writers tell me they have found helpful: 

Benefit is your most powerful weapon.
What is your brand offering to its target audience? Remember that it must be important to that audience. If it differentiates you from competition, all the better. But never settle for differentiation alone. You also must offer the highest believable benefit. For instance, it’s true that an instant breakfast food saves time, but the higher benefit may be what the consumer does with the time saved. Maybe a busy mother gets to spend extra moments at the breakfast table with her children. 

Limit your Reasons-to-Believe.
Don’t just dump in every possible good feature of your product or service. Discipline yourself to choose the one – or two, at most – that bests support the benefit. Joining an emotional benefit with a rational Reason-to-Believe is usually a winning combination. 

Narrow your Target Audience.
If you try to talk to everyone, you will end up effectively talking to no one. The trick is to include as wide an audience as possible, yet one that is linked somehow by demographics or psychographics. This way, you can connect with your consumer instead of being blandly generic.

A real insight is an enormous competitive advantage.
An insight is never a bit of data; it’s more of a human truth that hits your consumers in the heart or in the gut, not in the head. It makes them think: “This brand really understands me. This is going to be my brand.” That’s worth its weight in gold.

This is the secret to any great brief. Decide what you simply must keep in and leave the rest out. Your goal is to make the creative team say: “I GET IT!” so sharp focus is essential. Greed leads to bad briefs. 

In my upcoming workshop, we’ll talk more about briefs, as well as how to look at creative work in rough form and give your agency compelling feedback; how to get truly integrated campaigns; new tips on digital and social media; and more.  

Jane Maas is best known for her direction on the “I Love New York” campaign, as the author of “Mad Women,” and was recently named “one of the 100 most influential advertising women of the last 100 years” by Ad Age. Her workshop is scheduled for September 14 in San Francisco. 

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