Writing an effective creative brief

Posted by Andrew Rogerson | 06-08-14

Writing an effective brief is the single most important aspect of any creative campaign, be that a brand refresh, new website, client magazine or other marketing collateral.

It should define the project in such a way that everyone working on it – internal and external – has a clear understanding of the objectives, messages and target audience. It should provide a focus for creative energy and ensure that there are clear metrics on which success can be judged.

Dictate the strategy, not the creative

All creative projects are a balance of strategic direction and artistic licence. The role of the creative brief should be to outline the parameters in which the agency must be allowed the freedom to do their best work. Don’t fall into the trap of not spending enough time on the strategy and being too specific with the creative: marketing managers should articulate the former and the agency the latter. 

Focus religiously on your target audience

This will bring the creative to life. Creating client profiles (also referred to as client personas) is an excellent way to document and illustrate your target audience. These are normally short bios or narratives: what potential clients look like, what they want and – most importantly – what you want to give them. The more granular these ‘pictures’ the better chance your agency has of reaching them.

Include all relevant stakeholders

Soliciting input from all relevant stakeholders in the brief’s creation will increase the chance of success. Involving the fee-earners early will avoid sticky conversations when it comes to approvals later on. Communicating effectively with your agency will allow them to own and believe in the project. And including members of your internal team will provide a focal point for your marketing knowledge and a referral source for later stages.  

Keep it brief

Keep it relevant and to the point. The goal of your brief is not to demonstrate your knowledge of the creative process but to craft a document that will help to guide others. Be clear and direct and avoid using jargon, marketing buzzwords or other corporate speak which will just serve to confuse.


10 key components of an effective creative brief


  1. Overview A short description of the project and its purpose
  2. Objectives Brand awareness, changing perception, sales leads ...
  3. Target audience Company size, job title, sector, stage of buying process ...
  4. Messaging What is it you want your audience to think / do
  5. Competitive positioning Competitors, differentiation and what it looks like from a client’s perspective
  6. Tone of voice How you want to talk to your audience
  7. Deliverables Exactly what you are looking for
  8. Budget The financial resource available for the project
  9. Schedule When the deliverables are needed
  10. Approvals Who will be involved in the approval process
Andrew Rogerson

Written by Andrew Rogerson

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