The most creative brief is actually the tightest.
The more narrow the brief, the better the creative that comes out of it. I know the obvious logic is that if a creative has more freedom, they’ll come up with something more creative, but it’s the exact opposite. Nothing is more creatively freeing than knowing exactly what needs to be said. Then you can have a ton of fun finding the best way to express that single-minded thought.
Too often today, we don’t have enough discipline at the brief stage. We don’t want to commit to a simple, single-minded thought, because it means we’re not focusing on all the other things the brand wants to say. So we use the creative exploration to find the strategy. The problem with this is that you are just delaying the inevitable hard decision anyway, and you’re burning through very expensive creative time in the process. Or worse, you don’t land on one single-minded thought, and the ad becomes Frankensteined, checking all the boxes, but remaining remarkably unmemorable.
Let’s talk a little bit about what is actually in the box.
The box on every assignment is full of more than just the “key thought”. There’s also the brand voice to consider. A piece of marketing can be on strategy, but totally wrong for the brand. So you need to understand whose voice you’re using and what feels right (or wrong) coming out of their mouth.
And then there are all the other variables. For instance, the ghosts in the brand closet, other company quirks, and the personal opinions of the individuals on the marketing team. Let’s face it, no matter how much we all respect and serve the brand, there’s always personal likes and dislikes (and baggage) that weighs on the decision-making. Add to that production budgets that often shift, variables in formats needed for production, and a list of mandatories that seems to build over time, and there’s a lot jammed into the box.
So for all of those reasons, you can understand why an “open” brief is anything but freeing. We have enough variables to deal with in the creative development of a campaign, without having to find the “thing we want to say” along the way.
If we can all have the tough, honest conversations early on in the process, we’ll find there are less presentations where things feel “off brand”, less confusion along the way and fewer rounds of work.
While it isn’t easy, it is far more efficient to build a tight box, and then let your creative teams loose within it.