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Great Briefs vs. Bad Briefs

Updated: Oct 5, 2020

Words: Rozanne vd Merwe

Writing a brief is the number one most important mechanism that will determine the success of a client’s campaign. The end results will come down to whether it was a good, or great brief. A creative brief should be used by your advertising agency to determine the problem at hand. At Ogilvy, our job is to come up with brand solutions. Without this specific document that explains the ins and outs of the “job” for the creative team, who’ll be working on it, we cannot do our job properly.

Let’s put it into perspective.

Think of it as feeling terribly weak and sick, your symptoms do not resemble any current virus, and no matches are found on Google. Next step would be to see a specialist, a doctor. When you turn up to the appointment, the doctor already left for the hospital and without consulting you, ‘the patient’ and he’s booked the theatre for an emergency operation. What, but how? How can a doctor prepare for an operation without doing a full assessment? This is absurd, and completely goes against any medical regulatory board.

But why do we, as advertising specialists accept little to no info or background when it comes to campaigns? An advertising brief will help you (the client) to shape the overall strategy and goals for the project.

At Ogilvy, the ‘Do Brief’ was created and launched globally a few years ago in the response to the ever-changing business environment and strategy. Let me give you a quick overview of what we expect when writing briefs for our clients:

  1. It starts with a business issue – basically WHY is this brief here? What keeps our client awake at night? We are after words like “market share or increase conversions online”. A bad brief would include words like “general awareness” or to “improve the brand’s image”.

  2. Who do we want to speak to? Please do not include the general public, stakeholders or Namibians to this line. This is the biggest mistake most marketers make, we do not know WHO we really want to engage with our brand.

  3. What do we want the campaign or message to do when it comes to consumers? We want consumers to take action, it should be more than just a feeling or emotion. The Audience needs to DO.

  4. How will the communications change behaviour or action? What can we do to persuade a person to try out a new product, or click through to engage with a brand online? With 24 years advertising experience, Ogilvy has the right team, specialised in specific fields.

  5. Budget & deadlines– the most dreaded terms within the industry. We work on a price/ quality & time principle. Clients get to compromise on one. If we have 2 days to create a “solution” then time will not be on our side, and the price not on your side. Quality should not even be up for discussion.

  6. The devil is in the detail – I sound like a parrot when it comes to this, but please give your agency more to work with than a paragraph. This wastes valuable time, fam. We really do not want to sound nosey, but the more we know the better.

  7. “It starts with the brief, and it ends with the brief”, taken from our Digital and Strategy Director at Ogilvy Namibia, Kartrionae Alfantica-Ossai. This is the assessment before you go in for your operation, and will determine life or death.

In conclusion, Maira Kalman, illustrator and author wrote about the Paradox of the Brief. “The tension exists in all creative endeavors, not just marketing. On the one hand, the brief needs to be tight, exact, clear. On the other hand it needs to be open and inspiring.” There will always be a dream and a deadline. All the best!

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