But I didn't want a Porsche! How to brief so you get what you want

By: Dave Endsor

Date: 24 February 2014

But I didn't want a Porsche! How to brief so you get what you want/the new 997 Porsche turbo{{}}Writing a brief might sound difficult or even boring, but I’d like to explain just how important it is. As a marketing agency, we're creative, logical people — but we don’t have psychic powers. If we did, we'd be able to stop wars or predict next week’s lottery numbers.

So, like all consultants, we need to understand our clients’ problems in order to offer them the best solutions.

Think of it like buying a car.

You tell the dealer your old car is rubbish and you'd like a new one. “Great,” they say, “What do you need it for and what is your budget?”

Now you have to make some decisions. This will make the difference between being recommended a two-seater sports car or a sensible family car. If you tell the dealer it needs to be yellow and you don't have a budget in mind, then you're still left with the sports car or the family car.

As they learn more about you and your needs, the salesman might discover that you are a lofty six-foot-four with three children, which helps them eliminate the sports car and probably the hatchback they were going to recommend.

Receiving a creative brief is much the same. We need information. Here are eight questions that will help you form a fully functional brief that will make any agency love you. 

1.   Background. What has instigated this new project?

What’s the rationale?
Your decision to appoint an agency is important and it will be useful to understand your motivation. Have you spotted a gap in the market? Do you have a new product or service?

If your brief was a car: we've had another baby and we need to replace our old car that has failed its last three MOTs.

2.   Objectives. What do you want to achieve with this project?

It's essential that an agency understands the required outcome and how this can be measured. An agency will know the various ways and means, but not the specifics. These might be increased sales, improved brand awareness or a larger share of the market.

If your brief was a car: we need it to be practical, with a large boot, sat-nav, an isofix system for the baby carrier and wipe-clean leather seats — we have kids!

3.   Target. Who is your target audience?

You'll need to consider who you're trying to talk to. This will determine the most appropriate media channel, the language and the imagery. This includes age, gender and social position. From this, your audience's response and attitude towards the communication can be predicted and assessed.

If your brief was a car: the car’s features (and looks) need to be right for us and our children, followed by family and friends.

4.   Action. What do you want people to feel or do as a result of this?

This is what will drive the objective. If you understand your audience well, you can play to their needs and emotions. Do you want people to pick up the phone, visit your website, buy your products?

If your brief was a car: we’re seen to be responsible but our mates also think we're cool.

5.   Proposition. What are your key messages?

Having one core message is much more effective than several smaller ones. Whether your key message is that you have a range of services available, you have a mega sale on, or a specific call to action, choose the most important message.

If your brief was a car: we’re happy and successful.

6.   Production. What components need to be delivered and how many?

Do you need posters, brochures, business cards, a film or a website? And how many do you need? Whilst it may not immediately affect the design or creative concept, it will make a difference to how they are printed, delivered and ultimately — the cost.

If your brief was a car: one car (we're not greedy!)

7.   Specification. What are the specific requirements?

These are things like brand guidelines you might have, corporate fonts or media sizes. Specifying them saves time and money. Resizing artwork before a print deadline or rewriting copy can be avoided if the details are right from the beginning. Holding your hands up in a square shape and saying "this big" doesn't work.

If your brief was a car: needs to be manual transmission, run on diesel and fit into a low insurance bracket.

8.   Budget. How much do you have to spend?

This is a serious question and demands a serious answer. Without this information or even a rough ballpark, the scope for creative is massive. It's the difference between an A5 flyer or a thick, glossy brochure. It's the cost of one banner advert or an entire online campaign. Your agency won't know how big to think without a budget and it’ll just waste your time.

If your brief was a car: maximum £18,000.

So there it is, a fully functional brief. It forms boundaries to push against and methods to measure creative accuracy. It outlines what you need rather than what you want and it allows you to be challenged.

Your limits, priorities and requirements are formulated into a simple springboard from which creative ideas can be launched and hit your targets.

“The Porsche is lovely sir, but it's over your budget and there's no room for the buggy”.

Dave Endsor is an account manager at Origination.