7 Key Questions to Answer When Writing an Effective Creative Brief

questions - who, what, when, where, why, how?They say that communication is the key to success, and in an advertising agency, that success is often contingent upon relaying accurate and complete information about the client’s brand, the competitive market, and the project’s objective from the account services team to the creative team. To do this effectively, a creative brief is used as a key tool to bring the necessary information together. Most advertising agencies use them, but many account executives and project managers do not understand or fully utilize their ability to help accurately communicate information across channels in the design process. As an Account Executive at The BLU Group – Advertising & Marketing, I swear by the use of a creative brief and its ability to communicate valuable information, build consensus, align expectations, and set clear objectives to all members of the team, as well as with the client. By doing this work up-front, it sets both you and your team up for a successful end result. But simply throwing together general project information into a document and calling it a creative brief is not good enough. While each should be customized depending on the unique client and project, there are a few key questions you can answer that will satisfy your creative team’s need for sufficient guidelines to work within, while also giving them creative flexibility. A well put together creative brief will also aid as a confirmation of understanding between the agency and client. Here are 7 key questions I answer that help me in writing an effective creative brief:

  1. What is the background or overview? Here is where you introduce the project to the creative team and explain important details of the competitive market, the brand, and what’s happening on the client side. You should also include any challenges that the client is currently facing.
  2. What is the objective? It’s important to provide as clear and concise of a statement as possible. Put simply, it is what you want to achieve from the creative piece and is usually written as what you want the audience to feel, think, or do.
  3. Who is the target audience? Here is where you identify the gender, age, geographic location, characteristics, priorities, occupations, and culture of each group. Be sure to include what motivates and inspires each group and how they currently feel about the brand or product category. The more precise you can be, the better it will be.
  4. What is the single most important thing you want to say? Keep this information simple in one to two sentences. It will be the information the creative team keeps in the back of their mind throughout the project.
  5. What are the supporting rational and emotional ‘reasons to act or believe’? Here is where you explain why the target audience should act or believe what you want them to. These are often described as emotional reasons and supports the information stated in #4 in achieving the objective.
  6. What are the mandatory elements, helpful information, and insights? This is where you include all other details such as brand guidelines and personality, logos, the color palette, and content requirements. Also, include any additional details that the client may have mentioned that give the creative team insight that may be relevant to the project, such as their likes/dislikes or background.
  7. What is the timeline and budget? Here is where you include the time allocated and key milestones for the creative team and client reviews. This information will most likely be outlined in a project management tracking tool as well, but having it in two places will ensure it’s always at the creative team’s finger tips.

After answering these questions to complete your creative brief, you should then review it with your client to ensure all details are captured and their brand and objectives are clearly outlined. This is a great time to reassure your client that you get it; you clearly understand who they are, what they’re looking for, and the challenges they may be facing. Once the client has signed-off on the creative brief, you are ready to schedule a project kick-off with your creative team to review the details of your creative brief, ensure clarity and expectations, and answer any questions they may have. Completing these steps and taking advantage of the creative brief’s ability to accurately communicate information will help set both you and your team up for the successful completion of the project at hand. What other key questions or guidelines do you use when developing an effective creative brief?