How Marketers Can Keep Their Agency Briefs, Well, Brief

Viewpoint: Talk to the Creatives on Your Shop's Team Like They're in Kindergarten

By Published on .

Lauren Warner
Lauren Warner
The creative brief. It's the one-sheet (that often turns into a four-sheet) summary of what we create in the agency business. It's approved by clients, written by account managers and carried out by creatives.

Just one document, but it causes so much controversy. Why? Because everybody has a different opinion about what it should say.

We humans have a funny way of thinking that the more we say, the better people will understand us. But a brief is called brief for a reason. It's meant to be short, zippy, to the point. Sure, we have to include the who, what, when and why, but I'm suggesting an intriguing new approach to the brief scribes among us: Pretend like you're talking to a kindergartner.

This doesn't mean adding colorful stickers or writing with a crayon. It's a technique that helps sort through the clutter to find what really matters. Smart and straightforward, the Kindergarten Brief lets the creative team better understand its objective -- and consumers better understand your brand. It's not condescending, dumbed down or incomplete. It's elegantly simple.

What the brief should not be: a strategy plan, brand guidelines or a legal form to protect you in the future ("See! This isn't my fault! I wrote it in the brief!"). The purpose of the brief is to serve as an order form of sorts. You're ordering from a menu of marketing options and your talented creative team will then go whip up your dish. Tell us what we're making, what ingredients we need to include -- and who we need to deliver it to. Then, get out of the kitchen.

Here are the three rules to writing a powerful Kindergarten Brief:

  1. Lose the Jargon
    Remember the old "Dick and Jane" books? Short sentences + action verbs = happy creative team. The good brief says: "Talk to busy moms. Inspire her to buy juice. Tell her it's healthy and cheap." The bad brief gives us a full demographic exploration of who Mom is and what she does in her spare time. It bores us with a competitive cost analysis of other juices and a full breakdown of the nutritional facts of this specific juice.

    Eyes ... glazing ... over.

    If you must give all the clunky details for legal reasons or copy points, e-mail us an addendum to skim after we're through creating concepts. For now, we're in kindergarten. We're selling juice to Mom. That's all we need.

  2. Make It Fun
    This doesn't mean adding more words. It means finding new ways to inspire. I once had an account manager decorate a Christmas tree, serve hot chocolate and play carols while briefing us on her holiday campaign. Sure, that may be over the top, but the brief is more than just a document. It's a way to motivate your co-workers. Through this sheet of paper, you have a great deal of influence. Have a little fun with it.

  3. Cut Loose
    Kindergartners are inventive, easily bored, excitable creatures -- much like the creative teams you may work with. Flexibility is not just encouraged for the brief writer, it's required. As we dive into the creative process, we often find new insights or ways of approaching what seemed like a strategy set in stone. Let the brief be a two-way conversation and you'll find stronger results.

It's easy to do things the way they've always been done. But a better creative product begins with a better brief. The Kindergarten Brief lets us communicate simpler, think smarter -- and, just possibly, reminds of why we entered this business to begin with.

Lauren Warner is a senior copywriter at Omnicom Group's Rapp Worldwide in Dallas.
Most Popular
In this article: