A creative brief serves two purposes:
1. To inspire the creative team to come up with the biggest, best, most unique and most strategic solutions to the client's problems.
2. To assure the client that we listen and understand their pain points, and give them a voice in laying the foundation for the creative work ahead.
Here's an outline for a creative brief, in brief:
What's the client's primary business objective?
What's the role of communication in achieving the above?
Who are we talking to? What do we know about them? What do they believe now? What do we want them to believe?
What are some relevant behavioral insights about the customer and her life? About human nature in general?
What's going on in the marketplace and in the world at large that's relevant to our work? What are some trends we can tap into or rebel against? What are competitors saying or doing? What's the tension in the category?
Given what we want to achieve, who we're talking to, and what's going on in the world around them, what is the single most important point we need to communicate?
What are the proof points that make our strategy believable?
What are we asking people to do specifically? Where are we driving them? What action do we want them to take upon engaging with our communication? Click a link, sign up for a newsletter, get a quote, contact their broker, call for more information, or just buy the damn thing?
What's essential? The logo, the brand name, mention of the promotion, any specific media placements or partnerships?
When is this thing due and what are the relevant checkpoints along the way?
The most important of these is Strategy. Here are some examples of great ones.
California Milk Processors Board – Got Milk?
Insight: People wait until they're out of milk to realize that they need to buy more.
Strategy: "Milk enhances the enjoyment of many foods. Don't wait until you're out. Buy some today."
Toyota Sienna – Swagger Wagon
Strategy: "Awesome parents drive the Toyota Sienna."
So how important is Strategy to today's most iconic brands and leading ad agencies? It's difficult to understate.
Here's Apple's vice president of marketing in a publicized email, touching on the somewhat shocking fact that Apple and its agency went back and forth over a brief for the iPhone 5 for months.
"I watched the Samsung pre-superbowl ad that launched today. It's pretty good and I can't help but think these guys are feeling it (like an athlete who can't miss because they are in a zone) while we struggle to nail a compelling brief
on iPhone. That's sad because we have much better products."