How to Brief Creatives Creatively
Written for BBDO’s Comms Planning blog in July 2019.
The role of a planner is to distill information in a way that inspires--whether you think of yourself as a rockstar or an architect, it’s our job to turn our mess of thoughts into something that gets people moving. As planners, we spend a lot of time thinking about what goes into the brief--the data, the insights, the layout of the deck-- but it’s just as important that we think about how we brief the brief. The most perfectly crafted insight can be drowned out by a dull presentation, which doesn’t bode well for the final output.
Think of it this way--a lifeless briefing sets the stage for lifeless creative work.
To kick the creative work off on the right foot, here are a few ways to amp up your briefing and inspire your audience:
1. Tell the Story A good brief is a story, and a good strategist is a storyteller. It’s a cliche that’s used endlessly in planning, but it’s an essential one. How many briefs have you presented while doing that half- stand-half-lean-on-a-nearby-table maneuver that makes everyone feel awkward? How many briefs have you presented while trying to both take control of the room and be casual while not really doing either? No matter how good the narrative in your brief is, you’ll have to up your presentation game a little bit to really sell it.
Being a great presenter doesn’t take that much showmanship--you don’t have to go all Freddie Mercury at Live Aid during the briefing. It just takes a little bit of up-front planning. Decide what tone you want to take for the briefing and stick with it. Do you want to be like Oprah, giving a deep emotional talk that evokes big feelings? Or do you want it to feel like an intimate conversation that draws everyone together? You have a lot of options in terms of the tone you can take during the briefing, just pick one, decide what it means to you, and stick with it.
Aside from the tone you take, there’s nothing more important than your open and close. The beginning and ending of your briefing are what will get creatives’ interest and ultimately inspire them to do the work. Use the first few minutes of your brief to really reel the audience in-- establish whatever tone you’ve decided to use, and build intrigue by getting a laugh, asking questions, or sharing powerful information. If people are looking up from their laptops and leaning in to you, you’ve got the opening right. The closing is a little easier but just as essential-- end on a key takeaway that excites people to get straight to work.
2. Bring the Brief to Life Briefings are stressful occasions for all parties involved. Planners are nervous about presenting and defending their work to a mixed crowd, and creatives are nervous about whatever daunting task lies within the planner’s deck. An official, tense, or intimidating atmosphere definitely doesn’t help soothe any of this, and definitely doesn’t make the work better. In fact, it could squash any chance of a productive Q&A or brainstorming session after the briefing is done.
To combat this Planning Perturbation (copyright not pending), consider a few ways to create a more lighthearted environment. Try scheduling the briefing for somewhere outside of a bland conference room--everyone loves getting outside of the office, so see if you can host your briefing in a more interesting venue. If you’re confined to a conference room, spruce it up a little--play music as people are coming in, or add some flowers to the table. Set the mood.
You should also see if there’s any way you can get your client’s product into the room. Do a live product testing or platform demo, and let anyone who’s interested play around with it. If it’s a service that can’t be brought into the room, try the service yourself beforehand and bring photos and videos to the audience about your experience with it. If you aren’t able to do that, bring in some testimonials, anecdotes, case studies, or videos of other people using it.
If all else fails, just get some snacks. Instant mood booster.
3. Add Creative Value Advertising is an inherently creative industry, and you don’t need to actually be a creative to get in on the action. It’s often helpful to have some thought starters at the end of your brief, which gives your creative team both direction into what the client is looking for and some concepts to spark off of. To get a few solid thought starters, try your hand at answering your own brief. Get comfortable exploring the territories that come with your insights, and add a few of the thoughts you have into your deck.
If developing creative concepts isn’t your strong suit, try and find some existing campaigns that inspire you. Go through the Cannes Archive, Adweek, Julian Cole’s Brand Actions Library--odds are you’ll find something that resonates with your brief. Be sure to add any campaigns that the client has referred to.