DDB Tribal’s Nina Rieke explores the brief, an essential component of the creative process


Defining The Problem

There are no great briefs, only great ads.
There are no great briefs, but there are la lot of bad ones.

A good brief is probably about as good as a brief gets.
(L. Butterfield, Excellence in Advertising, 1997)

There are no great briefs, just great ideas – as much of our work is not limited to traditional ads any more. Have you ever heard anyone outside of advertising discuss the potential insight or message behind a campaign? No – this doesn’t happen – planners are not rock stars and often don’t get the credit they deserve.

Planners play a vital role in the creative process. Creatives look to the brief to provide them with a clear understanding of the business situation and the challenge that needs to be solved. If creatives are unable to do so, they can come up with nice creative ideas – but won’t be able to deliver the solution the client needs. So the question is – what makes a good brief?

A good brief shouldn’t be creative and cheeky with word play, but first and foremost, needs to deliver the business challenge with clarity. Identifying what needs to be solved is a huge achievement in its own right. Good insights can help shape the creative idea and strategy. Insights are not just psychological – a good insight can be based on cultural phenomena or behavioural patterns. We experienced this during the development of Volkswagen’s “Don’t Make Up & Drive” campaign, which was strongly focused how women use social media – revealing a great way to approach them.

Clarity is also important in terms of being decisive about what the main issue is that needs to be solved for. Trying to tackle too many extraneous issues can be a detriment.

A good brief can always be told in a few sentences, without jargon. They are, in the best sense, very brief. And it takes work to reach that level of brevity. Good briefs are not misunderstood as a format that needs its boxes to be filled – but a structure of thought that delivers a good story to creatives.

Good briefs don’t necessarily come from planners alone – they are brought to life through discussion and collaboration. So my advice for a good brief involves not just doing research, but having conversations with the people that are most likely to work on the project down the road. And keep in mind – good briefs not only give direction, they inspire.