Creation: The what, why, who, when and how of briefing
by Artwell Nwaila (@artwelln) Last year I wrote about how to gather info from the client in order to craft an agency brief like a boss. Now it’s time to go into detail about how to structure the actual brief.
Every good brief consists of five ingredients: the “what”, the “why”, the “who”, the “when” and a generous sprinkle of the “how”. Failed briefs usually have one or two of the elements missing. If three are missing, then someone needs to be fired. Let’s take a closer look at each element.
1. The “what” sets the context
For a brief to make sense, context has to be created at the start. The “what” has to be asked and answered in the beginning so that creatives don’t get as lost as a nun on honeymoon. For me, the “what” has to be strategically driven — most of the five briefing ingredients have to be driven by strategic research. Good strategy sets a golden path for awesome creativity and everlasting friendships with creatives.
2. The “why” identifies the problem
The “why”, which is backed by strategy, dives straight into the problem. The “why” is the reason that the brief was set to start with. Why is there a brief? Why is there a problem? Why are we solving the problem, etc? A good example of an answer is to a good question would be a simple answer. Eg, brief x is created to increase brand love after product recalls. The “why” is used by good creatives as a place to sense-check their ‘creative solves’.
3. The “who” identifies the audience
The “who” is a detailed description of who we are talking to. Who are they? Where are they from? What do they do? What are their spending patterns, etc? This information allows the creative to visualise the consumer and set the communication tone.
4. The “when” sets a time limit
If you know what’s good for you, you’ll give creatives a deadline. Deadlines set an end-by-date for all parties. The rule of thumb states that, if you don’t place a deadline, the due date is 12/06/2099. And, if you give deadlines that are too short, you will get your work on 12/06/2099.
5. The “how” is where the magic happens
The “how” is where the creatives takes over. But it’s not that easy; the briefer needs to find out in what direction the client wants go (write it in a few sentences) and use that as a thoughts-starter. This gem of information should direct the creative in the client’s direction of thought. It should also slim down the chances of the creative going in the opposite direction to the client.
These are the five ingredients needed to craft an awesome brief. So, the next time you set a brief, do try follow the above formula and let me know how it works out — and, when your team wins an award or two, feel free to thank me.
Artwell Nwaila (@artwelln) is a creative director in the wonderful world of TV, as well as founder and publisher of the award-winning SA Creatives (@thesacreatives), a network intended to help creatives move their professional lives forward through showcases, news and a freelancer directory. His monthly column on MarkLives, “Creation”, is a humorous take on life in the creative world, seasoned with experience-based practical advice.