Sacha Cody
Dec 1, 2022

Why tight briefs are the best fit

Too much information or creative freedom in the briefing process can blur the focus of both brand and agency, says this marketing strategist.

Why tight briefs are the best fit

It was David Ogilvy who sagely said: “Give me the freedom of a tight brief”; intuitively knowing that creative effectiveness was contingent on a creative brief that was focused, specific, and gave zero ‘wriggle room’ in its interpretation. Ogilvy had observed through his own experience that creativity thrives under constraints. 
Recently, Edward Bell, Cathay Pacific’s GM of brand, insights and marketing told me something similar. The best creative outcomes come when they’re reined in to a degree, otherwise permutations can be too broad and can lead to multiple ideas fighting with one another.

 A constrained process
While the creative brief is a core component of the constrained process Bell spoke about, most don’t start out that way. Worryingly, according to the global BetterBriefs study (2021), eight out of ten marketers say that writing Creative Briefs is hard. As a result, more often than not marketers and creative agencies actually use the creative process itself to clarify the strategy. 
This is wrong. But what is the solution? Let’s take a step back and consider the ingredients necessary for a good creative brief:

  • It should contain piercing clarity on the jobs to be done (the business or brand problem to solve as well as commercial imperatives);
  • It should articulate the product or service, along with proof points, being offered to the market; 
  • It should build off relevant contemporary audience and consumer insights
  • It should include descriptions of internal stakeholders, project mandatories, deliverables, timings, and budgets. 

Writing a creative brief is hard when executives do not have all the information at hand. In my experience, this is particularly the case when it comes to working with contemporary audience and consumer insights. 
All too often, the kitchen sink is thrown into the brief, along with pages and pages of appendix material, leaving the creative agency to go on a fishing expedition. Or, broad-based consumer ‘tensions’ are listed, gleaned from qualitative research programs that are vague at best or outright confusing at worst. 
Is it any wonder that creative agencies are scratching their heads trying to figure out what the market values or what is driving category choice? 
A tight brief
In the best briefs, you should find contemporary audience and consumer insights leveraging marketing science that uses multivariant analysis and speaks to drivers of behavioural change, both rational and emotional. In other words, the research reveals what defines value and what the market wants with a hierarchy of decision-making criteria. 
Drivers of behavioural change are both rational and emotional. Rationally, brand choice is a question of value for money, the quality and price trade-offs people make. This holds true whether buying a Maserati in Shanghai or a mobile phone plan in Singapore. Quality is what the brand delivers as well as what it stands for. Price consists of both the actual price paid as well as the perceptions of value or price competitiveness people hold with regard to a brand or product. 
When it comes to emotions, or non-conscious feelings, we must define them clearly, as well as their territories, manifestations, codes and cues, so creative agencies know how to detonate them in communications. 
Over the past 30 years, the firm I work at has conducted thousands of studies and partnered with dozens of market turnarounds. One thing is clear; brands can achieve above average growth when they have a brutally singular focus on one quality driver, one price driver, and one emotion (the triple play) consistently across all their communications and initiatives. The decision as to what quality, price, and emotion to focus on occurs before the creative brief is written. It is an outcome of rigorous evidence pertaining to the choice drivers, and executive alignment (including the CEO) as to which drivers that brand will seek to own in market. This very idea should remind us that great brands are born in the boardroom, not from a single creative execution. 
The completion of a creative brief is a milestone. Brands must use it as a bridge between the executive mandate regarding which drivers the brand will own and the beginning of the creative process. 
Let’s give creative agencies the opportunity to deliver their very best work. Let’s give them the freedom of a tight brief by bringing marketing science and an executive mandate into the process up front. 

Sacha Cody is general manager of client success at marketing advisory firm Forethought, leading their APAC business


Campaign Asia

Related Articles

Just Published

2 days ago

IPG becomes first company to integrate Adobe ...

The IPG Engine is set to be integrated across their full spectrum of operations, providing a suite of services that span the entire content lifecycle, including creation, curation, assembly, personalisation, and measurement.

2 days ago

Where is China’s gaming industry headed next?

A draft legislation was published in December outlining plans to restrict in-game purchases in a bid to curb “obsessive” gaming behaviour in China. Then it disappeared. What happens next?

2 days ago

The rise of indies amid Japan's advertising oligopoly

Amid the vast expanse of Japan's advertising landscape dominated by giants like Dentsu, Hakuhodo and ADK, independents are mushrooming. These David-like contenders may lack the colossal budgets of their Goliath counterparts, but they wield a different kind of power—one fueled by strategy, resilience, and agility.

2 days ago

Dentsu bags Popeyes India's creative mandate

Account won post a multi-agency pitch