By Victoria King Last week I attended an MAA @MAA session on writing  the perfect creative brief hosted by Julian Saunders . The aim...

The 4 key questions when writing a creative brief


By Victoria King

Last week I attended an MAA @MAA session on writing  the perfect creative brief hosted by Julian Saunders . The aim of the session was to learn how to identify the brand truth of our clients and write the perfect strategic creative brief without putting in place too many barriers. While it sounds straight forward, brief writing is actually quite hard (I challenge any creative department member to have a go!). 

While the course outline was more biased towards pitching for new clients, but some of the key learnings I took from the course that can help with existing ones are as follows:

Every brand has a story. These stories can be quite distinctive and different.  They reveal the values of the brand and help us to uncover the brand truth of promise.
  • The first step to a great brief is to take it personally. Julian gave us an example of a agency (M&C Saatchi) who went to pitch for the UK Police department work.  The brief was to help boost recruitment numbers.  Without actually knowing what a policeman's life was like, it was very difficult to market the career to the public.  In the end they took the brief personally but getting current policemen to interview them for a role on the force.  It gave them a great insight into the workings of the force and the mind of the recruit.
  • Immersion in a product is paramount. You cant sell anything without being committed to the product.  (I think this is a good excuse for more Distillery trips – who is with me? :) )
  • Clients: Their attitude towards us is just as important as our attitude towards them. 
There are 4 key questions to ask when writing a brief:

1.  What is the problem, really?
  • Make sure that you aren't just firefighting. Acknowledge the problem and figure out whether the problem can be solved.  Is the problem related to the way the business works (like a change in mindset or an addition of something new within the company) or something much simpler that can be fixed with a quick to market campaign? 
  • We were also taught to interrogate a key fact about the business and or the market. Eg. Our brand is under performing in the market.  Why/why/why/why/why?  Keep going until you reach the insight.  An example is as follows:
Market Fact: Spirits consumption is low in Swenden realtive to other European countries.
Why? Because Spirits prices in Sweden are extremely high.
Why? bBecause state taxes imposed on spirits are high.
Why? Because the state was keen to reduce spirit consumption in Sweden.
Why? Because there is a historical legacy of alcohol abuse.
Why? Because people tended to either drink very hard or abstain or both.
Insight: Deep down in the national Psyche there is a feeling that spirits consumption is "sinful" and that consumers need " social permission" to drink spirits. 

2. Who is the audience?
  • We were told that the old adage of "retention is cheaper than acquisition"  is out of date and that just talking to existing customers can be damaging to a brand.
  • Interrogate the audience profile. Uncover their motivation. A client brief will always give you the basics eg: lower middle class, mother, divorce runs at 40% 
  • If you have to give them a "personality" to do this, then do it.  They are more than meets the eye. 
  • Should the brand be targeting a sub group that are more valuable?  Just because the client says a target audience is X doesn’t mean it's the right one?
  • Target the audience where they will be more receptive to your messages.  
3.  What are we (the brand) going to promise? 

This is the SMP.   Find the benefit of the benefit of the benefit.  And keep it simple - "The brutal simplicity of thought."

Objective: To support the Golf brand as a car for the younger driver through the top of the range R32.
Core benefit: engineered for excitement/speed
And so?: when is speed useful?
Proposition: Over take in safety

4. What will be effective?
  • Don’t just buy eyeballs, win time and inspire participation.
  • Ask the question as a consumer "why should I bother?" 
  • Reach them when the category is most relevant or when they are most open to messages (Target case study)
  • We can be both "Quick" and "Considered" as there are 2 sides to the brain. The easier it is for the consumer to make a decision, the higher the engagement (Make it easy!). 
  • Always on – system 1 side of the brain. This is the side that reacts first.  It requires less energy and the least amount of effort.  
  • Controlled and aware – system 2 side of the brain. This is the rational side.  Takes time and energy to come to a decision.
  • Emotional campaigns out perform rational campaigns. Emotional advertising has broader effects that rational approaches.   The effects last longer and build up over the years and the paybacks for emotional campaigns are much higher (Ogilvy Brazil won a Cannes Lion for this campaign – Getting more people to donate organs  here is another campaign that won at Cannes: Google were promoting Hangouts
All in all, it was an insightful day that I believe will really help me next time that I write my next big brief!

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