The Brief should be so complete that if one were to hand it over to the Creative department and disappear, the end result should be pretty close to what one wanted, writes Santosh Zokarkar.


We all, at some point of time, have heard this interesting tale of two woodcutters. Each is given 10 hours to cut a tree. The first one immediately rushes into the job. The other sharpens the edge of his axe before getting into the actual act of chopping the tree. The moral of the story any fifth grade student can tell. In the context of Advertising profession, operating in a `wanted by yesterday’ environment, the story has only one moral - using a sharp axe. And `Creative Brief’ is what that gives an edge to the axe.

Drawing a simile of sort, what `Research and Innovation’ is to the Pharma industry, the `Creative Process’ - be it Copywriting or Art Direction, is to the Advertising. Advertising has two pillars - people and processes. Each compliments the other. The `Creative Process’ is much more than `knowing the deliverables’ as desired by the client. Like any other industry, the maturity of the creative process is a reflection on the agency and its culture. Needless to say, it demands a lot of hard-work and exceptional commitment to institutionalize this process. Because Creative Brief may be viewed as Competency for the Servicing team members but for the organisation it is akin to capacity-building. A structured approach is always a game-changer in that the work becomes more process-led than individual driven.


Why write Creative Brief? It serves as the reference point. Its purpose is to clarify one’s own (Account Planning/ Servicing) thinking upfront. It allows the other creative processes viz. design and production to happen efficiently and hence less expensively. This author has been harsh enough to say, about a decade back, that those who do not write Creative Brief have yet to start their journey in the advertising industry.


Those who do not take the time to write a creative brief may end up making many changes to the requirements of the project during the course of the project. They may continue to remain unsure of the final creative output. Or, such people may exhibit lack of confidence or conviction in presenting the `creatives’ to the client. Further, this may cause rework and ultimately leading to missed deadlines, higher costs and frustrated designers.


Another important point is that arriving at the Creative Brief is not a collective exercise as brainstorming involving the Creative teams. It should be so complete that if one were to hand it over to the Creative department and disappear, the end result should be pretty close to what one wanted. So what essentially is a Creative Brief? Here’s a simple format, if one would like:

  • Objective of the campaign (usually linked to the Business Objective)

  • Secondary objective, if any

  • Desired consumer response

  • Consumer barriers (emotional as well as rational)

  • Consumer insight (not just two words) that helps overcome barriers

  • Single minded proposition (not a repeat of Campaign Objective)

  • Substantiation for the proposition

  • Tone of voice

These points may appear too simple. However they are not. One really needs to work up one’s skills to answer them - framed in a simple sentence - unambiguously and with dexterity.


While a Brief is a must have, adding a `Background to the Brief’ is good to have. It is essential as it is helpful in many ways. It enlists why this project or exercise is being planned. Is it part of or connected to anything else? What’s going on in the market or within the Company? It covers important industry trends as well as what the competition is doing!


Dear Reader - should you take up this profession - ensure that you work on your competency to writing succinct Creative Brief. If you do, your creative teams will smile at you, else they know how to laugh!

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