Oh, Good Brief! Defining the Creative Brief and Its Impact

Insights / 04.26.2018
Zach Leffers / Strategic Planner

4/22/2024 10:20:39 PM Red Door Interactive http://www.reddoor.biz Red Door Interactive

Oh, Good Brief!
Let’s talk about creative briefs. As a strategic planner, a big chunk of my job is to come up with and explain ideas. I’m supposed to help identify business market problems and find strategic solutions to solve those problems. Sometimes this is best done creatively, with new communication from a brand to consumers. But there’s a lot that goes into a project like a new ad campaign, that happens before creative even begins. I’ll mostly gloss over that here.

What is a creative brief?

The strategic planner digs into brand, category, cultural, product, and consumer truths to unearth key messaging and positioning opportunities—what we want consumers to think and do, what we want the brand to be—that we’re trying to establish in the market in order to best solve the business problem. And the results of this research should all fit into the one-page document that we call a creative brief.

What should a creative brief accomplish? 

The creative brief, then, is the guiding light for that creative solution to the problem. It articulates the problem we’re trying to solve (a new product launch, for example, or maybe it’s repositioning the brand in the consumer audience’s eye), the strategic solution (here’s what we must do to be successful), and the way forward (here’s how to do it). It’s my job to write damn good briefs: to best position our creative team to make the most captivating, most effective creative ideas that can bring to life the message we want to communicate, in outrageously effective ways. If I'm not doing that, I'm not doing my job well.

Regardless of format, a good creative brief accomplishes at least a core set of things: it clearly articulates the problem at hand, who we’re communicating with to solve that problem, a depiction of what consumers think and how they act now, what we want them to think and what we want them to do after exposure to the creative campaign, and a single-minded proposition that establishes the crux of what we need to get across in our communication.

In other words:

  • What’s the problem?

  • Who are we speaking to?

  • What do they think and do now?

  • What do we want them to think and do?

  • What’s the most important thing we have to say?

There’s a lot of secret sauce that goes into those minimum elements (don’t get me started on “insights;” I’ll save that for another blog), but it comes down to a clear, focused understanding of the problem your brand has, what you can leverage to solve it, and how you’re going to express that to consumers.
Okay. You seem really enamored with creative briefs. But what’s the point?

Great question, hypothetical reader. A well-written brief with a great proposition—what’s the most important thing we have to say? —is fodder for your ace creative team to create great work. As a planner, it’s my responsibility to think about people in interesting ways, and unveil truths about consumers that brands can use to stick in their minds. Could creatives do that without planners and creative briefs? Sure, but the planner’s role is to facilitate that and take the pressure off creatives to strike lightning on their own. If I can hand creatives a great idea to chew on, they can focus all their energy on developing interesting, memorable ways to bring that idea to life in communication. And interesting, memorable communication sells.
Worth noting: Every creative agency has its version of a creative brief. I’ve seen versions that range from highly structured worksheets to a legitimately blank page (with an agency logo header). Personally, I’m of the opinion that the optimal brief falls somewhere in between, if not skewing toward the latter.

Curious to see what the Red Door creative brief looks like? You're in luck: we've decided to make it available for download. After all, one of our core values is #Share. Over time, we’ve gotten it to a pretty refined place, and we’re always eager for additional feedback. Otherwise, feel free to tweet any questions @RedDoor @ZachLeffers or subscribe to the blog below for more.


  • Insights
  • Strategic Planning
  • Creative Strategy & Production