Too many ads have no chance of being effective because the brief is poor. Here’s one technique to deliver your ad agency a clear objective.
There are many ingredients that go into making a good ad: a clear objective, the right agency, understanding the audience, the execution, ad placement — the list goes on. The brief is also important.
The ads I’ve looked at recently all have fundamental flaws. Appealing to rational thought; too many ideas; failing to apologise. But where did they go wrong? Bad idea from the agency? Poor brief from the client? Bit of both?
Ads need a clear objective and that comes from the client. Without one there’s no need for an ad. But a clear objective is nothing if it’s not backed up with a good brief.It’s critical that you know how to brief your ad agency. — Click to tweet
Briefing your ad agency
At the absolute minimum, put something in writing. Ideally, back this up with a conversation so everyone is clear about what needs to be done.
There are two types of written brief:
- the brief you give to the agency or internal advertising department;
- the brief given to the artists and writers.
The brief given to the agency’s artists and writers is the creative brief. It is written by the agency’s accounts staff. The purpose of the creative brief is to elicit a great idea out of the creatives. Your account manager should check to see that you’re happy with the creative brief before it’s sent off.
Before the creative brief is written there is another brief that you, the client, write: the client brief.
The purpose of the client brief is to tell the agency’s accounts staff (your contacts) about the problem to be solved or your communications objective. Note that it’s a singular objective. It’s my view, and the view of many others, that an ad should have a single idea (otherwise known as a single-minded proposition).
Why a written brief?
My experience has always been that written briefs yield the best results. It’s not a guarantee of success, but it’s a good start. The absence of a written brief often leads to average and sometimes disastrous results. Clarity is key.A clear brief will save time and money. There will be less confusion and fewer disagreements. — Click to tweet
There will be fewer retakes, edits and rewrites.
A written brief also makes it clear about what’s expected of the agency. Without these the agency can’t be evaluated objectively.
The point of a brief isn’t to be buttoned up and restrictive; it’s to give clear direction on what’s important and to clarify the issue that you’re seeking to address. The problem with informal briefing is that it makes a huge assumption that the person being briefed shares the unstated knowledge of the person doing the briefing.
– Will Collin, Naked Communications
How do I write a client brief?
The client brief should be a simple, short document that provides the information the account manager needs to write the creative brief. It should be … brief. Sometimes it is necessary to send through other material as background information. Most agencies will be happy with this as long as it’s relevant. And a followup phone call or in-person meeting is a good idea. It helps everyone understand why the ad is being made.
There is no ‘best’ way to write a brief. The most effective method I have found was developed by The Good Pitch. This is the basic structure:
- Where are we now?
- Think of this as the beginning of the journey
- Describe the current position of the your product and/or company brand
- Consider your position against your competitors
- Name any key issues you are facing
- Provide information about your current customers/supporters
- Where do we want to be?
- Think of this as your destination
- Define the single measurable objective that looks like success
- This could be an increase in sales or donations. It could be changing attitudes or behaviour. Maybe it’s an increase in votes.
- What are we doing to get there?
- The objective of your ad should be aligned against an existing strategy; perhaps a marketing strategy, a communications strategy or a campaign strategy. Tell your agency how it relates to your other activities so they can think about how this ad will complement existing or other planned activities.
- Consider asking your agency “How do we…?” That’s a challenge many agencies would love to tackle.
- Who do we need to talk to?
- Define your target audience
- Include: demographics, lifestyle, current engagement, attitudes — anything you think is relevant
- How will we know when we have arrived?
- How will you know you’ve been successful (reached your destination)
- How will this be measured
There are a few ways to use these questions. You can either use them to prompt your thinking as you write the brief, or you can answer the questions directly. Choose whichever approach works for you and your agency.
There will be a temptation to write plenty. Keep your brief brief. Long briefs can be overwhelming. The shorter the brief the better the agency will feel about the project. Agencies generally produce their best work on projects they feel good about.
Any agency worth its salt will tell you if they need more information or something isn’t clear.
Tips on writing the brief
- Make sure you have a clear objective or idea for the ad before you write it;
- Think about your audience (the agency). Write with them in mind and get them excited;
- Like any type of writing get a messy first draft out of the way;
- Write clear, active statements. No long sentences;
- No jargon, no internal lingo;
- Only include the most important information in the brief. Attach any other relevant material separately;
- Keep it short. No more than two pages.
This is the best method I’ve found for briefing ad agencies. It can be adapted to your own situation. If you’d like to read more about how to brief your ad agency I recommend reading: Briefing an Agency by The Good Pitch.
Once you’ve delivered the brief and everyone is on the same page, let your agency do its thing. Your job is done until you see the first idea.