Why I don’t like Creative Briefs.


In concept, the creative brief serves a great purpose but in the throws of getting work done it is often overlooked and great opportunities to do great work are missed. There are many different formats for a creative brief and I am a believer of simpler is better – and actually, I am not a fan of the creative brief at all.

Over the years, I have always stressed the importance of a brief to maximize the effort put into each marketing project and to identify those projects that appear to be small but may actually be a really big opportunity. To accomplish this, I developed a simple Project Brief and dropped the word creative from the title. Why do that? Because in the essence of time, many project managers and account execs try to say that a revision, maintenance, or low budget job may not require the thinking that a “creative” job does. To me. this is where many marketers miss big opportunities.

All projects share the same considerations and I recommend a Project Brief format that I call O.A.O.A.O. It is easy to remember and teaches less experienced marketers the key components of every project.

O.A.O.A.O – Five key components of a successful Project Brief.

Objective - What are we trying to accomplish with the budget provided? What will success look like? Frame the big picture.

Audience - Who specifically will this campaign target? Top customers? Existing Customers? Prospects? 37 prospects in Houston? Go deep and be specific here.

Offer - What can/will you offer this audience to do what you ask? What is in it for them? If you don’t have an offer, don’t spend the money.

Action - What do you want them to do? Call? Click? RSVP? Make it obvious.

Opportunity - This is where you get to be creative in a Project Brief. Are we doing this because that is what we always do? Then the biggest opportunity may be to do something new and different. This is where you find the stories of the Eat Mor Chikin or the Priceless campaigns. You seize opportunities to look at projects in a different way than your customers and offer creative solutions that meet the objectives of the budget, resonate with the audience, entice them with an offer they can’t refuse, and then tell them where to get it.

Try it. Make creativity a part of every project by making the details easy for your team to understand. If you like it, please let me know.

What ways have you found to seize the opportunity in every project?


  1. If set up intelligently, the project brief and creative brief should be asking very different questions. And both are needed.

    The project brief is about the message delivery mechanism (e.g. print ad), asking questions about size, quantity, who needs the production file by when. While the creative team needs to know this, the information has very little to do with the creative thought process.

    There are many different versions of a creative brief, short and long. I’m in favor of shorter. When it comes to crafting the creative message, for virtually any communications vehicle with words or images beyond a simple logo, answer these three questions:

    • What do you want your target audience to think (logic), feel (emotion) and do (desired action/reaction).

    A slightly longer version of this brief asks what the target thinks, feels and does now, and what you want them to do. In other words, that behavioral modifications are needed.

    And while an offer is important, many great ads or creative of any sort are designed to increase awareness, not prompt an immediate trial or repurchase. Two great examples of this are the Master Card and Chick-fil-a campaigns mentioned.

  2. I really like logic, emotion and action/reaction. We left the project details in the project management system and let the Project Brief be the guide for the creative.

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