Biz Features

Better Creative Briefs: 10 Crucial Items We Leave Out

by . November 11th, 2015

Creative briefs are ideally about cutting out ambiguity. Unfortunately we’re often hung up on the “brief” part, often leaving some very important details up in the air — causing endless confusion sometimes, months and years down the road.

When starting work on a creative brief, it pays off to really reflect about what the project means from the top down, as well as from the bottom up–and not just from your personal perspective. Many marketers and creatives often rush through this step, resulting in less-than-desired outcomes.

A marketer may be too focused on the macro-level items, blind to specific realities on the ground. Creatives may have the opposite problem and not be able to see the forest for the trees.

These issues are often amplified when creatives and marketers are not all in-house and and some or all of the players involved are working on a part-time or freelance basis. There may also be issues related to time zones, culture, and managerial styles. There is also  often a very real risk of scope-creep, or an unexpected gradual widening of a project’s scope.

A carefully-planned, well-defined creative brief can kill or at least suppress these issues and help you deliver a truly focused, effective campaign.

Done reflecting? Great!

If you are a creative or a marketer, listen up.

Here are 10 things you should never leave out of your creative brief:

10.) Descriptions

A sentence to a paragraph describing the project and its main objectives. If you can’t contain it in three sentences max, you’re usually in trouble.

9.) A target audience

Describe your key audience briefly, give key demographic information, and provide ideas of what things they want and aspire for.

8.) The core message

What does the audience stand to benefit from this? Give roughly 3-5 important benefits. Too few and the message seems insubstantial (even if it really isn’t in reality). Too many and the other key benefits are diluted.

7.) A call-to-action

As we’ve said before, marketers and creatives who don’t know why this is important or care to know should just quit.

6.) Themes

Include a brief rationale on why the themes were chosen as well as how closely they should be followed. Include examples of what to look at for inspiration if needed. Also explain what not to follow in those examples.

5.) Specific goals

Include either specific metrics such as sales, traffic, conversions, and whatever else might be relevant. In cases where this might not be feasible, give examples of previous cases that could be seen as benchmarks.

4.) Brand and style guidelines

Include specifics on the following:

  • fonts
  • tone
  • taglines
  • colors
  • logos
  • anything else important to the brand

For some brands, this can take forever. Paul Rand famously submitted a 100-page brochure detailing the NeXT logo, including the precise angles to be used. You don’t need to put this all on the brief you submit, but this information should be available as a supplemental document or link.

3.) Technical specifications

What formats and file types do you need? What sizes do the images have to be? What style will the copy follow? Include brief rationales when needed. Include examples or even physical samples if it will make things clearer.

2.) All the deliverables.

Prevent scope-creep by outlining exactly what you expect delivered. How many flyers? How many minutes of airtime? How many reshares? What kind of images and copy need to be made? Failing to set limits here often gives wildly divergent expectations among involved parties.

1.) Timelines

Be sure to include:

  • Due dates for specific deliverables
  • Product launch
  • Available slack time
  • How flexible is all this?

Is this all necessary? If everyone is on the same page, then not really.  Of course, it’s almost a truism that this is never the case in the real world. If you’re in a situation where you or part of the project team is working freelance or via an agency, then then yes, most creative briefs will need these elements at the very least.

Remember, spending a little time with your creative briefs early on will not only prevent confusion, but save creatives, marketers, and project owners plenty of time as well.

Check this Quora forum out for more ideas on creative briefs, including dissenting ones!

 Did we miss anything? Feel free to comment below!



Arthur Piccio manages YouTheEntrepreneur and has managed content for major players in the online printing industry. He was previously BizSugar's contributor of the week. His work has appeared multiple times on The New York Times' You're the Boss Small Business Blog. He enjoys guitar maintenance and reading up on history and psychology in his spare time.