I've heard a lot of negative statements about Creative Briefs but none more resounding than what I call the "Number One Challenge." And I feel qualified to call this the number one challenge, as I've heard it repeated across the many companies I've worked with over the past 25 years. Drum roll please..."The client doesn't get what the Creative Brief is all about"--or some very close variation to this statement. Generally disgruntled feedback on the part of the creative team speaks to process and content:

  • "They fill it out like a form at the doctor's office--with great intensity but not much thought for what happens to it after they leave."
  • "They use marketing buzz speak instead of actual language that means something. They show off their ability to 'write'."
  • "They direct the creative solution thinking that's what is being asked of them, and then they are annoyed that they did all the thinking. And now we're just an overpaid pair of hands.
  • I could keep adding to the list, but I think you get the idea...

  • Want the good news? You can change this state of affairs! It's as easy as 1-2-3.

    Find 1.

    One person on the client side, at any level, who gets what you're talking about. Or who has the most potential to understand the value of a Creative Brief.

    This person is your potential Creative Brief Ambassador. Give her and her projects white glove attention. Patiently walk her through the Creative Brief and write it together. The more comfortable she is, the more deeply she'll experience the value of a Creative Brief done right, and she'll happily help you get the good word out to other clients. Depending on your relationship, consider telling her that she's being groomed for this role. Let her feel the importance of it; she might love the idea of influencing others. (Caution: be sure she's ready for this role before you tell her!) In short, you are finding/building your champion.

    Train 2.

    Train as many people as you can, but at minimum go for 2 people. Your main CBA (Creative Brief Ambassador) and her direct report are a good start. Maybe they'll be able to influence the top boss on your behalf. Either way, include them both as much as you can. It's the "You tell 2 friends" rule and let it can go viral, in a good way.

    Or go for the administrative assistant as the second person. The Admin is someone whose power cannot be undervalued. He is often the Main Influencer; the one who can compel the big cheese to take your call. Win him over and you're likely to win over the decision maker.

    Acknowledge 3.

    Post mortems are often reserved for when things go wrong. Do it for when the CB is used correctly and acknowledge the CBA, the Creative and yourself for your super efforts and contribution. OK, invite more than just you three and bring cupcakes! Positive reinforcement will reinforce the good behaviors of all parties that lead to success.

    There are a lot of painful stories about Creative Briefs. But when time and effort is invested into creating a strong Creative Brief, the end result--the creative output--will be far more effective because of that effort. In addition, the team will be more efficient in producing that creative output because of the on-target Creative Brief they received at the beginning of their process. If your team is challenging with getting Creative Briefs for clients or getting well thought-out Creative Briefs, remember you just need to find one person to be your champion and you can grow from there.