Whether you’re partnering with an external creative firm or going in-house, sharing a creative brief ensures that everyone’s on the same page. After all, if you’re spending time and money to work with an agency on a well-executed marketing campaign, you want to make certain you’re getting the most out of your partnership. If you have an internal team, they’ll thank you for letting them know exactly what you want.
When executed correctly, a creative brief will communicate your values, vision, and the end result that you’re looking for. We’ll review the standard elements to include and provide creative brief examples so you can get off and running with your next brief.
What’s the purpose of a creative brief?
A creative brief is a short, yet detailed summary of your company’s background and the campaign goals you aim to achieve. Creative briefs aren’t unique to one type of project; you can use them to provide the blueprint for all deliverables, whether you’re working on promotional assets, a podcast, social media visuals — the list goes on.
A well-executed creative brief will help your creative partner understand how you see the project, the audience you’re trying to reach, what kind of deliverables you’re looking for, your objectives, and the voice in which you’d like your messaging delivered. This point is potentially the most important because if you’re not clear about how you want your brand to sound and feel in your creative assets, the execution of your campaign can suffer.
A creative brief will also contextualize whom you’re trying to position yourself against with regard to your competition, and will often include the scope of the project, detailing the time-to-delivery and budget.
Creative brief examples and elements
Although different campaigns may be in need of different creative deliverables, all of your briefs will look relatively similar. We’ve broken down a standard format for you to follow to ensure no details are left out.
Some specific elements will vary slightly depending on whether you’re employing internal or external support, but most creative briefs should include the following items:
- Your company’s background, ethos, or mission
- An explanation of the project, and how this request for creative fits into the overall strategy of the campaign
- Audience information, including the markets you’re targeting and any pertinent demographic or psychographic profiles
- Your “big idea,” or the objective you’re hoping to achieve with the creative deliverables
- The voice and messaging of your brand
- Your competition, and any challenges or push back you anticipate
- Logistical details including your budget and the time frame in which you need the project completed
A creative brief will generally be a single page — two pages max — as shown in PayPal’s example below. Although you may feel like that’s not enough space for you to convey what you need to, the more you’re able to distill your thinking, the clearer it will be to the agency or internal team member with whom you’re working. You may even find that you get a more refined picture of what you’re hoping to accomplish when you gather your thoughts concisely and in one place. Keep in mind that the creative brief will serve as the jumping off point for evolving conversations as the creatives get to work.
Here’s a more detailed look at what to include, as well as some top tips on how to create a quality creative brief.
Part 1: Your company’s background
To begin the brief, you want to present the core elements of your business so that an external agency can understand your brand. If you have a specific point of view or set of values, or are mission-driven, this is the place in which you want to communicate that. Of course, this part might be left out if you’re working with someone internally.
Pro tip: Jargon and flashy marketing words aren’t helpful here — you want to be as direct as possible in order to get your message across.
Part 2: Your project
This section will help creatives understand what you’re looking for in terms of their deliverables. For instance, you’ll explain whether you’re requesting a 30-second commercial to help raise awareness of your newest product launch, a 6-week podcast to spread the word about the high-profile clients you’ve engaged, or perhaps a new website to refresh your branding.
Pro tip: In this section, it’s vital not only to let your creatives know what you’re looking to accomplish, but also how it fits into a specific integrated marketing campaign and the larger strategy for your company.
Part 3: Your target audience
The more you understand about your audience, the better your creative team will be able to nail your request. Here, you’ll include who you’re looking to target with this specific campaign and the details you have about their behaviors and desires that can be relevant to helping creatives execute effectively.
Pro tip: Take a hint from Quaker’s creative brief to see the various ways they identified their target audience under “Guidelines.”
Part 4: Your objective
What are you looking for beyond the actual assets? Are you hoping to potentially reach new customers, or realign your brand with another demographic, for example? Providing your desired outcome to creatives will help them visualize the most effective execution.
Pro Tip: Include the mission statement of your overall campaign, which will provide a concise definition of the campaign’s goals.
Part 5: Your voice
Think of this as a highly distilled style guide (feel free to share your complete messaging guide with an external agency.) Do you have a specific tone of voice that you always communicate in? Is there messaging you need to hammer home? This should reflect your brand and speak to your target audience.
Pro tip: Is there a specific word(s) that needs to be included in the creative? Add it into your brief, as Hasbro did under “Mandatories.”
Part 6: Your competition
Including your competition isn’t a must, but doing so enables your creative team to see who you’re up against so they can uniquely position you in the market. Define competitive companies, products, or even specific campaigns — whichever is most relevant.
Pro tip: If you have any particular elements (whether similar to, or in contrast with your competitors’ campaigns) that you want to include in your creative, note it in this section.
Part 7: Your scope
Finally, you may want to include exactly what you’re looking for, the budget you have, and deliverable due dates. This will be part of a larger conversation, of course, but providing this information in a creative brief can help your creative partner make sure they are aligned — and so you don’t overspend if you’re employing an outside firm.
Pro Tip: If you’re using an external agency for the first time, make sure you have background information on their price range and turnaround time to avoid unnecessary roadblocks.
Your creative brief is an integral part of your integrated marketing plan. As you aim to reach consumers with a cohesive narrative across all of your marketing channels, a well-executed creative brief can help to ensure consistent messaging throughout your campaign.
Meredith Turits is a NewsCred contributor.