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Aug 23, 2000
How To's Top 10 Creative Brief CheckList

SUMMARY: We came across a fab site this week – As you might guess from the name, the site aims to help women in Scotland start their own businesses and achieve economic independence and success. But you really don’t have to be a woman (or even Scottish) to benefit from what has to offer! There’s a wealth of information available at the site (we especially like the Marketing Advice section), and we’re chuffed to bits to be able to give you a taster:
Ten Top Things to Think About When You’re Writing a Creative Brief

Want to produce a well-written creative brief for your advertising agency? Here’s what you should include:

1. Project Background
It will be helpful to your agency if you can provide background information on how the project came into being, what the issues have been so far, and any related research or views of opinion-formers within and outside your organisation. This information will affect the way they approach the project and will reduce the risk of them preparing inappropriate work.

2. The Objectives and Desired Response
State clearly what the objectives of the advertising will be. Is there a requirement for a campaign or a one-off advertisement? Does the advertising have a clear objective? Be specific – for example: to increase sales from existing customers by 35%.

Try to avoid giving more than one objective in any single advertisement. Obviously a campaign of activity can use individual advertisements to communicate specific messages or sales benefits. If developing a campaign, explain which messages/objectives must be achieved by each advertisement within the campaign but remember that the campaign must build towards an overall clear corporate proposition. This is usually achieved by using a strap-line or sign-off to your advertising that stays constant. There is a misguided belief, particularly among small advertisers, that, due to budgetary restrictions, the brand or positioning message must change each year or even season. Try to work consistently and apply brand values to your advertising so that even the most specific of advertisements contributes in some way towards building and consolidating your image.

3. Your Budget
Whenever possible provide a clear indication of your available budget. This will help your agency or media buyer to plan the best mix. Many organisations are tempted to adopt the ‘you tell us how much we need to spend’ approach as this negates the need to make a commitment. The usual outcome of this is that your agency will almost certainly come back with proposals you cannot afford or justify. Because your expenditure must make a justifiable return, you can only really use this approach if giving a very clear and specific response target. Always ask your agency or media buyer to build into the campaign plan an evaluation mechanism, but be prepared to participate in this process.

4. Target Audience
There are various ways of describing the people you are trying to reach. The most helpful approach, especially to assist designers and media planners, is to imagine your ideal target person and simply describe him/her. Try to avoid being too general in your description, as this will not help your agency. Build up a picture: how much does s/he earn, where would s/he be likely to holiday, what part of the country does s/he live in? Obviously, few will fall into this exact category, but it will help your agency to set the right tone and choose appropriate media. You can then indicate the wider audience if this is appropriate.

5. Style and Tone
This follows on from agreeing the target audience. Clearly your advertisement needs only to appeal to those you are trying to communicate to. Set clear guidelines as to visual style and the written tone you believe is most appropriate. Your agency will no doubt have an opinion, and indeed should guide you to some degree on this, but it is worth putting forward your own views on the matter; it will save time later.

6. Content
Provide full details of the advertisement’s content. Your agency’s writer is there to transform the information you provide into compelling copy that is well structured, grammatically correct and elicits the desired response. Try to avoid putting forward suggestions for headlines and concepts as this will limit the creative process and is unlikely to lead to the most effective advertisement. Be precise about the mandatory information the advertisement(s) must carry. Long addresses and multiple phone numbers and logos will reduce the available space. Be particularly careful not to clutter your advertisements with unnecessary information: this reduces impact and lessens the communication potential of the advertisement.

If you do expect your agency to research a particular area prior to writing copy, then advise of this at the earliest stage. Be clear about your requirements and be specific about the order of priority that the copy must give to certain points.

‘Selling off the page’, as most advertisements are required to do, should follow the principles of AIDA or (as it is sometimes referred to) AIDCA - Attention, Interest, Desire, Conviction and Action. This is the order in which the selling argument is best laid out to the customer, and is based upon researched findings in this area.

7. Procedure
At the briefing stage, clarify how information will be provided and how you expect your agency or media buyer to relay information back. If you are in the position of co- ordinating the campaign and require authorisation from others, then advise your agency of this so as to prepare them for what may be a longer process than normal. If all opinion formers and decision makers cannot be present at key meetings then it could be more useful to re-schedule. Your agency will always charge (or cover) for its time, including meetings, so try to keep things brief, to the point and heading in a positive direction.

Good preparation and advance planning should overcome the fragmentation that may be involved in briefing anddevelopment.

8. Deadline
Be exact, but bear in mind that many publications can be flexible on their copy deadline dates (but don't take this for granted). Keep your agency or media buyers advised of any timings you may have been given directly along with the contact name. This could be useful later if the publication or station refuse to take your booking or advertising copy.

As a general guideline advertising copy (the actual advertisement) has to be supplied to the publisher or broadcaster several days, and in some cases, weeks before the ad appears. Colour requires further advance planning than black and white, while monthly publications require more notice than newspapers, which generally work to tighter schedules. While actual copy deadlines vary, as a guide, you should allow:

Black and White Press - 3-5 days
Colour Press - 5-7 days
Radio Commercial - 3-5 days
TV Commercial - 5-10 days
Monthly Magazine - 1-2 weeks
Yearbook - 3-6 months

9. Production Considerations
Let your agency know right at the start if there are any issues that may preclude them from certain graphic approaches. These might include:

- Adherence to Corporate Identity guidelines;
- Inclusion of third party logotypes;
- Availability of text or images on disk;
- Any production restrictions a publication or broadcaster may have advised you of.

10. When Less is More
Time spent preparing a good brief is time well spent. It will save time and money later and help build a better relationship and gain respect from your professional advisers. Sometimes however, less can be more. For instance, don't clutter the brief with unnecessary background information or statistics that are irrelevant, or try to lead your agency or media buyers into a media route which isn't based on hard evidence of success. Keep everything succinct and orderly and try to avoid personal preference, keep your target audience fixed in your mind when preparing the brief.
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