Having spent a number of years in the advertising and design industry as an Account Director, I can whole-heartedly confirm that most art directors and designers will not read your brief once you’ve finished talking through it (note: I’m excluding copywriters here as they do need the detail of a brief to be able to write accurately).
In the context of social etiquette, this might be perceived as being a little bit rude. However, in our industry this isn’t the case. Those who are fortunate enough to be creative tend not to rely on words – they live their lives through visual experiences and as such, it’s not that they’re not interested in what you’ve written; it’s just that they’ve already worked out the direction whilst listening to you (quick, aren’t they?).
So why even write a brief then? Well, it’s still a valuable document – it’s just more valuable to the account team. The brief provides an explanation from the client marketing team to ensure that the account handler has a firm grasp of what it is the brand is trying to achieve. It’s this platform that will form discussions with the creative team to decipher the strategy behind it and proves an invaluable sense-check against the creative output before a client is presented with a concept.
The importance of a good brief is to ensure that it doesn’t become diluted in translation. Often, creative needs re-visiting for the sole reason that the client has something very specific in mind that they’ve either struggled to communicate, or the account team has misinterpreted.
At Truth, 90% of briefings happen with the client, account handler, AND creative director. Interestingly, it’s quite astonishing at how people interpret briefs very differently, but our method ensures that we evoke lively debate – rather than being ‘off-brief’; something that can often be costly and frustrating (for both parties).
It’s the role of the account team to scribe the brief into succinct and manageable chunks, providing a synopsis of the problems and the ambitions of the brand. That way, when the brief is communicated to the design team, it’s done in an immediate and organised way – without sending them to sleep because you’re too bogged down in the detail.
Good design is best achieved by a short but encompassing brief – and like the output of design, the brief works well when you know what to leave out. Which leads me on to the most important aspect of a client brief. The problem.
Designers (and agencies) produce their best work when they know what the problem is. Designers are problem-solvers; so instructing them what something should look like on whatever you need producing is a bit of a waste of time. A problem isn’t that you’re unsure as to whether a brochure or an eDM would work best; it’s that you need to increase your brand reach – designers will work out the rest. And, you’ll get an end product that works as hard as it can for you. Money better spent then.
Finally, here are a few pointers to ensure you get the very best from your agency:
1. What’s the background?
Tell me (in a paragraph) what the brand is, how it’s performing and why you’ve been challenged to resolve something.
2. Where are you now?
If your brand were a person, what would you be? Tell me what you are.
3. Where do you want to be?
Tell me who you want to be – and make it tangible.
4. What do you want to achieve?
Be realistic. What’s the best outcome of the project to elevate the brand?
5. Who do you want to talk to?
Who’s your audience and why do you want to talk to them?
6. Why will they care?
This is important. What has your brand got to offer that others don’t? How will your brand change your audiences’ life?
7. Must’s and Must Not’s.
If there’s anything off limit (e.g. brand mark, photography use) state it. Otherwise, your concept will be great, but not necessarily something you can run with.
Yes, we know clients hate sharing budgets – but sometimes it saves a lot of to-ing and fro-ing. It means that the brief can be shaped to your budget and without the embarrassing conversation along the lines of an approved concept that you want executing for half the price.
A leaving thought… keep it tight and to the point, tell us the problem and be open to suggestion.