The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

It’s called ‘brief’ for a reason …
August 17, 2012, 6:13 am
Filed under: Comment, Creative Brief

Creative briefs.

The bane of my fucking life.

I hate them. HATE THEM!

But – and it’s a very important but – you have to do them because they not only provide the framework and inspiration for creative teams to start creating their magic, but they become a piece of historical reference on the brand that ensures people won’t post rationalise the execution and miss out all the little bits that made all the difference.

That said, the debate of what should and shouldn’t go in a brief still rages and I find that sad because at the end of the day:

+ You should never be a slave to the briefing format, the briefing format should always be a slave to you.

+ Different people like different levels of information so a ‘one size fits all’ mentality, is totally and utterly ridiculous.

+ A short brief shouldn’t be an excuse for ignoring the real issues that need to be addressed & conveyed.

+ A long brief shouldn’t be an excuse for not being clear, concise and interesting.

+ Regardless of what you are being asked to do, a brief should always be interesting, informative & inspiring.

Because of this, we have a few different briefing ‘formats’ here.

Some are designed for more junior guys to ensure they’ve done all the critical thinking necessary … some are designed for clients to ensure they give us what they need, rather than what they want … but all cover 6 critical questions.


What is the end objective? I don’t mean the execution but the business result.

In short, if they say, “We want some TVC’s”, ask why and don’t stop till you get some real reasons with some real quantifiable goals.


What are the key issue/s that are stopping this from happening right now.

It might be people’s attitude and behaviour … it might be a competitors product or distribution.

Maybe it’s an issue with our brand or communication or even a product quality or lack of innovation story.

Whatever it is, find the fundamental issue and write it down.


Who do we need to engage in conversation? Who do we need to inspire, inform, push?

Don’t just write a bunch of stats or bland statements, explain how they think, live, worry, behave.

Let people feel the person not just read a bunch of cold, clinical bullet points.


This is where blunt honesty is needed.

You can’t write this from the perspective of what the brand wants them to think, it has to come from the audiences mindset. If you’ve done your homework for the previous question, you’ll know the answer to this … and if you’ve done your homework well, you’ll know the answer is not going to be some marketing hype/bollocks, but something that satisfies a real need in their life – be it emotional, physical or mental.


Detail the macro approach you are taking to achieve this brief. It should be short, precise and full of creative mischief.

ie: Deposition the key competitors as ‘old success’ by making XXX the badge for ‘new, entrepreneurial achievers’ … or something.


Based on the goal, the barrier, the audience and the strategy – what is the brands point of view on the issue they need to address.

It should be something that is obviously based on truth but also full of tension and pragmatism.

ie: “You can’t change tomorrow if you don’t act today” … or some other z-grade sounding Yoda impression.

Don’t rush it. Take your time to really craft it because apart from needing to be relevant to the task in hand, it also serves as the creative ‘jump off point’ and if you’re going to help your colleagues do something that is powerful and interesting with it, you’ve got to ensure they really feel the tension and energy of what they can play with or play off.


You might ask why things like ‘tone of voice’ are not mentioned.

Well sometimes they are … sometimes they’re not … it depends on a number of factors, however at W+K, we place great importance on ‘brand voice’ so a few abstract words like ‘fun, upbeat & lively’ are not really going to cut it.

I should point out that how you brief your colleagues is another incredibly important part of the creative process.

If you give them a piece of paper and tell them to “read this”, you’re almost doomed before it’s even had a chance to begin.

While the brief should be inspiring on it’s own merits, it’s always good to think of ways to let your colleagues really understand what you are trying to get across.

That might mean you present it in a different location or environment to the office … that might mean you put them in situations where they can really feel what you’re trying to convey … that might mean you get interesting – yet relevant – people in to chat to them before you go through your hard work, but whatever you do, it’s always worth putting in that extra little bit of effort because it will genuinely pay dividends to the work that comes out the other side and that is ultimately what you’re going to be judged on.

At the end of the day it’s worth remembering there is no such thing as a perfect creative brief because ultimately, it’s about what you put on it – or how you present it – rather than what it looks like … however what I can say is that from my experience, as long as you have a culturally provocative point of view running all the way through it [obviously based on truth rather than ‘marketing truth’] then you stand a much greater chance of creating something that affects culture rather than just adds to the blunt, advertising noise.

50 Comments so far
Leave a comment

This is a great post, topped off with an excellent ad.
One to keep for future reference for all agency people.

Comment by George

creative briefs should be creative and brief.

unlike anything on this fucking blog.

Comment by andy@cynic

The first line sums it up perfectly. It also shows how uncreative we are in our naming strategies.

The second line works too. Unfortunately.

Comment by Rob

good ad though. fucking good ad.

Comment by andy@cynic

forget the fucking abc guide to brief writing. forget the fancy locations he talks about. the best thing he did to get great fucking work was take us to the pub to buy us some piss before briefing us. the cunning sneaky fucking bastard.

Comment by andy@cynic

It’s the only time I listened to him.

Comment by Billy Whizz

It’s the only time I could shut you up.

Comment by Rob

Rob, this is an excellent post and ad.
Andy, fuck off.

Comment by Ciaran McCabe

im a dad and dog owner these days. its against the fucking constitution or some other bollocks to tell me to fuck off.

besides, ive been fucking nice to campbell on this post. and its not even his fucking birthday.

Comment by andy@cynic

You have. I’m shocked!

Comment by Rob

what the fucking fuck are you doing on here at this fucking time? i though this was when you slept after a hard fucking day doing nothing.

Comment by andy@cynic

What else could it be except another test your esteem day.

Comment by Rob

i remember when i had to do those. till you fucked it up for me. ready and happy or nervous and fucked off?

Comment by andy@cynic

You should be thanking me, they’re bloody ridiculous – but it’s the final round, it’s down to us and one other and I think we’re going to show them the best thing we’ve presented so far so all in all, I’m nervously happy.

Comment by Rob

Good luck Rob. If you like the work and you’re going to be doing your mesmerising tap dancing presentation routine, the other agency should be nervous as hell.

Comment by Pete

i cant stay here writing any more of my genius, i have puppy shit to ignore so go knock the fuckers dead campbell. and if they dont buy what youre offering. go knock the fuckers dead.

Comment by andy@cynic

We’ll see.

Comment by Rob

Brilliant advice on encouraging great work and enjoying the journey to creating it. I agree with George, this is one to keep.

Comment by Pete

agreeing with your boss. how fucking toady.

Comment by andy@cynic

At least I am consistent.

Comment by Pete

Not bad at all. But can you explain why what you call the key point of view isn’t included in the how of the strategy? And how, if you insist on it standing alone, do you stop it from becoming a piece of explicit creative direction which will be justifiably resented by the art department?

Comment by John

are you complimenting him doddsy?

Comment by andy@cynic

Depends on quality of his response.

Comment by John

You’re going to be doomed again then.

Comment by DH

Yes John, are you complimenting me???

Good points. The answer to the first question is that the POV is separated out because it helps the wider team have something to focus on. Without doubt it should be an encapsulation of what has been said in the strategy – it’s just there to act as a focused jump off point for the guys to explore and play with.

Maybe your question comes from the fact the examples I used in the post for strategy and POV don’t seem to match. There’s a reason for that, it’s because I didn’t think about doing it that way and just gave examples for those specific questions.

Now I come to think of it, that’s extra stupid given a brief should flow and I’ve treated each section as a separate entity.

As for your second question, it’s a case of working with good creative colleagues. Some may take it as a literal direction – but even if they do, they take it somewhere else. I suppose the other way of looking at it is if you work with bad creative colleagues, at least they have a direction to point their youtube video search at, which may get them to steal from a better class of “inspiration”.

Comment by Rob

Well as you complimented me, it would be churlish of me not to compliment you. Well, to tell you the truth, in all this excitement I kind of lost track myself.But being as this is the most powerful ego boost in the world, and would blow your head clean off I’ve got to ask myself one question: Do I feel churlish?

Comment by John


Comment by Rob

No. Credit where credit is due. It’s not a bad post.

Comment by John

Good post Rob. What happened?

Comment by DH

I found the information in this post very interesting and I have never and will never write a creative brief. Good work Robert.

Comment by Lee Hill

Great read.

Comment by Bazza

Great post! Quick question… do all the nitty gritty deliverables make it onto the brief or do you hold back until you’ve cracked an idea first before executing it various ways?

Hope the pitch went well!

Comment by Age

Good question Age. To be honest it varies and it varies depending on a whole range of factors. In a perfect World I prefer not to so the guys can answer a specific problem free from the influence of a particular medium, but that’s obviously – and unfortunately – not always the case.

As I said in the post, my view is you control the brief rather than the other way around hence there is flexibility in many aspects of how you write/present a brief except for the need to have a clear understanding of the goal, challenge and fundamental POV/insight that can start the guys thinking bigger, broader and braver.

Comment by Rob

And it went well. We can walk away and feel good that we did what we believe is right in the best way we feel we could deliver it so now it’s all in the lap of the Gods. That is unless I can find a way to manipulate/blackmail them to guarantee a positive answer. Haha.

Comment by Rob

Never refer to clients as Gods.

Comment by John

When they give freebies/upgrades, they are.

Comment by Rob

Very, very good. By the way, I used to quite like ‘naked briefs’ where you just wrote what was appropriate for the project, but increasingly find people need the discipline of filling out boxes.
Constriction seems to free up thinking, rather than the other way around, a bit like a Haiku is horribly limiting and yet creats profound amazingness.

Comment by northern

Good point but it depends on the individual. To paraphrase an Arsne Wegner quote, “everyone thinks they have the most profound statement on their piece of paper”.

That was shit wasn’t it. Sorry.

I do agree that for some, liberation comes from constriction – in fact you could argue that has been the key driver to China’s success when filtered with their cultural need to always be seen as progressing. [Which now is basically about ‘making cash]

Comment by Rob

I don’t weant to think about what you two have been viewing on youporn, but I believe you mean concision rather than constriction.

Comment by John

Possibly, but that’s kind of clever clever one would be advised to omit from creative briefs

Comment by northern

I’m doomed.

Comment by John

everyone on here is doddsy. get the fuck over it and stop trying to make yourself sound special. its equal doomed all afuckinground.

Comment by andy@cynic

Very good post.
I used to deliberately write very very short and to the point briefs because I knew whatever I put a particular ex-colleague would add stuff. But was good practice.

Like you say the idea of briefs being interesting in their own right (especially big key project briefs) is spot on. I recall Northern talking about doing briefings with objects (or something like that) which seemed really interesting.

Comment by Rob Mortimer (Not a fake Andy)

Oh and in addition flexibility is so so important.
Knowing when it is right to talk more, who it is right to talk more for etc, make a huge difference.

Comment by Rob Mortimer (Not a fake Andy)

[…] this week on LOOK there’s been a bit of buzz around this piece by Rob Campbell (W+K’s Asia Regional Head of Planning). In acknowledging how much he hates […]

Pingback by Best of LOOK | VCCP Curious Blog

[…] briefing process is the bane of many in the PR industry, indicating that this post from Rob Campbell is required reading. Campbell works at iconic advertising agency Wieden + Kennedy, which has long held a reputation for […]

Pingback by Radia’s return, Huawei’s enigmatic reputation, Lonmin’s credibility gap, the Myanmar goldrush, and more |

[…] A long time ago, I wrote a post about how to write a creative brief. […]

Pingback by Fill-In-The-Blanks Creative Brief … | The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

[…] That does not mean you post-ratrionalise whatever is produced, but by the same token, you don’t expect a brief to be answered to the letter, which is why I stand by the belief a brief should act as a direction rather than a destination. […]

Pingback by You Either Are Building Or Destroying. Building Is Better … | The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

[…] It is for this reason I’ve always believed in the importance of a brand ‘point of view’. […]

Pingback by Forget Taking A Position, Give Me A Point Of View … | The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

[…] end up writing so many different versions of them in an attempt to find the one that I think is the , most intriguing, infectious, provocative and sharp, that I end up feeling like I’ve just gone 12 rounds with a 50 foot robot octopus by the time […]

Pingback by If Timing Is Everything, Planning Timing Is Nothing … | The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

Leave a Reply