Simon Bloomfield, CD & Lisa Burprich, Strategy Director at MercerBell, share tips and tools from a lunchtime lesson on creative brief writing.

As part of our lunchtime lesson series, myself and our Creative Director Simon Bloomfield, recently held a session about creative brief writing for the account service teams. Despite being such an integral part of the agency creative process, I’ve found throughout my career that little time is actually spent educating people on the best way to brief creative work in. A lot of learning comes from being yelled at by scary ECDs or from hearing urban legends about amazing creative briefings that took place in a hot air balloon at sunrise.

Simon and I teamed up to give the perspective from both creative and strategy. Simon representing the teams and what it’s like to be on the receiving end of a brief, while I passed on the tools and tips I’d learned from years working in strategy in creative agencies (and sometimes being shouted at by ECDs)

The idea of the session was to give the teams the tools they need to feel confident about running inspiring, exciting and provocative briefing sessions. As it’s just as important to get the creative teams excited about the brief as it is to give them the right information, we structured the lunchtime lesson around the full briefing process.

Here are our top tips on completing a brief and running an engaging briefing session:

The briefing document:

  • Be clear on the task – make sure you can articulate the overall task in one sentence
  • Interrogate the opportunity – make sure you’ve walked in the customers shoes
  • Think about who you are briefing – put yourself in the shoes of the creative – what will help them solve the brief? What will get them excited?
  • Use your own language – speak how you speak, no acronyms or segmentation jargon (especially not the word millennials!!!)
  • Write your brief like a story – follow a story arc to build the excitement of your brief and to help filter out information that is irrelevant to the overall story
  • Use ‘word bombs’ – use active & interesting language, words that creatives can bounce off
  • Don’t repeat yourself – if you say it right the first time, you don’t need to say it again
  • And of course use the right briefing template – if in doubt, ask!

The briefing session

  • Set the right tone – What tone of work do you need the creatives to produce? Make them feel that way – do you want them to have fun? Do you want them to be shocked? Do you want them to feel emotional?
  • Get out of the office – help them get in the right mindset and go to a relevant place where they can be immersed in the product, customer or category
  • Bring inspiration – what are competitors doing? What are non-competitors doing? What parallels exist in pop culture?
  • Have some thought starters – shit planner ads are important! If you can’t think of any ideas, how are they supposed to?!

We also provided a few key troubleshooting tips on areas in briefing documents that often bring the brief writer unstuck.

  • Understanding the difference between the background and the task
  • What an insight actually is
  • Key considerations about the “One Big Thing”
  • The difference between Substantiation and Support
  • And what a mandatory is – and what it isn’t

We’ll be running follow-up workshops on insight & proposition writing so keep an eye on the blog for more tips on creative brief writing.