How to brief a creative agency

Insider Knowledge: How to brief a creative agency – some useful tips to making a more effective process.

For some people ‘being creative’ seems very foreign. Often we hear them say ‘well I can’t draw, I haven’t got a creative bone in my body’. We beg to differ. Our experience is that pretty well everyone has some form of creative capability – whether that is the more traditional things we think of a creative such as drawing, writing or performing, or the less obvious ones of finding different ways to do the same job.  Which is why we want to boost the confidence of people who have to brief creative agencies – so they get the quality creative work they deserve.

We thought what better way to do this other than explaining how we conduct internal briefings – creative people briefing creative people if you like.

So this is the insider’s guide to creative briefing.

Ideally the briefing should take place face-to-face or at least over Skype (or similar) that way we can use our full range of expression in describing the brief and in sharing ideas about it. Sometimes waving your arms around or sharing an expression communicates the point where words alone miss the point. Make sure you are fully prepared and to this end we recommend preparing a creative briefing before convening the creative staff due to be involved. This might be written in a compiled form if that suits you and your team, but it could as well be ordered thinking and sample images and words torn from magazines or printed from web sites.

You need to gather the following information: client name and contact; key deadlines to be met; project name, and budget.

Then onto the substance of the brief:

  • What has the client requested? Although this might not be what the creative team recommend;
  • What is the product or service on offer?;
  • Who is the target audience for the message and how engaged with the product or service are they?;
  • How does the client want the audience to react on encountering the communication?;
  • What is the context of the communication? What are the market conditions, where might the communication occur etc;
  • Does the communication form part of a strategy and if so how?;
  • Is there a tone of voice or style that the communication needs to follow? For instance professional, rustic, clinical etc;

The attendees of the briefing are given the opportunity to take in the brief, if you don’t like writing things down and want to talk through the topics above then we suggest recording the session. Any questions that arise will need to be answered so that everyone can confirm their understanding of the brief and the creative challenge. Then it is usual to allow time for initial ideas to be banded about.

At this stage all ideas are accepted – that includes the obvious, the obscure, the foolish, the cliched and the over complicated. Only by debating all ideas can the truly right ones ‘rise to the surface’. It takes patience to do this and attendees need to accept that fresh ideas can be prompted by those we might otherwise reject.

Once all parties feel that initial ideas have been exhausted and any general direction that can be agreed is confirmed it is time to let the creative heads set to.


Article by Rob Harrison