How to Prepare a Creative Brief Without the Hassle?

Published on 29 August 2022 - Updated on 29 May 2024

By Andréa Bensaïd

Founder of Eskimoz. I support companies of all sizes in their digital acquisition strategy.

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The creative brief is a document that gathers all the useful information for producing visual or written content. It is at the heart of project management. The creative brief is written by the communication or marketing departments and shared with operational teams. It is the reference document that organises the entire production. Definition of the creative brief, steps to follow for its writing, and some examples to inspire you, here is our complete guide!

What Exactly is a Creative Brief?

A creative brief is written when there is a need to establish a collaborative working mode with several teams that will combine their skills to bring a project to fruition. It can be used when the mission is delegated to an external communication agency but not always. A brief is also written for internal purposes when several departments work together on the same project. The creative brief is used for writing projects, website creation, online and offline advertising, audiovisual or musical content creation… In short, whenever creativity is at the heart of the matter!

The primary function of the creative brief is to gather all the key information related to a project in one document. It is a communication support that allows sharing a common vision and ensuring that the project’s objectives are well understood by everyone. Although it serves as a base, a guiding thread, its components may evolve. For example, once the brief is completed, a kick-off meeting is organised to present it. Everyone is free to propose new suggestions that complement or modify the creative brief before the final project launch. Of course, a project manager is always needed to make decisions; otherwise, it becomes a headache!

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Ideally, since the creative brief serves as a reference throughout the creation process, it should no longer be modified once the project is launched. In theory, yes, that’s what we do, but in reality, the brief can evolve along the way. Avoid doing this, but if it’s absolutely necessary, make sure to share the latest updated brief with your creative team, or else you’ll face missed creative intentions that will slow down the project!

What Can Be Found in a Creative Brief? 

The creative brief should be as exhaustive as possible if it is to bear fruit. Therefore, it generally includes these 5 fundamental sections:

  • A complete presentation of the company
  • A precise description of the target audiences
  • The issue (i.e. the problem to be solved to achieve your communication objective)
  • Your objectives (whether quantitative or qualitative)
  • The constraints to be respected: schedule, budget, human resources…

Sometimes, the creative brief can be very detailed and go as far as describing the project organisation method or the KPIs for each communication channel.

Creative Brief and Specifications: Are They the Same Thing? 

The distinction is very subtle since both documents serve to frame a project. A creative brief can sometimes even be called specifications. However, keep in mind that specifications are used more for technical projects like designing an e-commerce platform or implementing a CRM software. The term creative brief is preferred for a communication project, whether it is developing an editorial strategy, creating a brand logo, or launching an advertising campaign on social media.

How to Write an Effective Creative Brief?

The successful completion of the creative project largely depends on the content of the brief. Before you start writing it, you need to ask yourself the right questions. Below, we detail the main themes to guide your thinking and properly fill out your creative brief.

In passing, don’t forget to name your brief explicitly so everyone can find it, for example: advertising campaign ‘organic range’ to target 18/30-year-olds.

What Do You Have to Say About Your Brand or Company? 

This first question is crucial because it allows the creatives to understand your context and history as a whole. Put yourself in the shoes of someone who doesn’t know you at all and describe: your history, your products and services, your values, your positioning, and your competitors. The goal is to achieve a creation that truly reflects your company’s culture and personality (and not a production far removed from your communication standards).

Who Are You Addressing?

For this part, you need to be as precise as possible and provide the necessary information for a good understanding of your prospects’ profile. For example, you cannot simply say that your target consists of women aged 20 to 50, it is not enough. When you describe your buyer personas (your ideal prospects and customers), include the following notions: age, socio-professional category, geographical area, family situation, consumption habits, interests, lifestyle, values, expectations, and constraints… In short, a very detailed portrait.

If you have multiple targets, determine which ones are priorities to design a message that aligns as closely as possible with their aspirations. You maximise your chances of attracting a quality audience rather than trying to address everyone and losing performance.

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What Is the Exact Challenge of Your Creative Brief?

The challenge is somewhat the heart of the matter. In this section, you must describe the problem that your project will be able to solve. In communication, the challenges to be resolved are numerous and very varied, they can include:

  • Refreshing your brand image
  • Increasing customer loyalty
  • Finding potential target prospects for the launch of a new product
  • Communicating about a significant company event
  • Improving your web visibility
  • Promoting upsell and cross-sell on your e-commerce site…

When writing a creative brief, don’t forget to mention your promise either. That is, the added value of your product or service for your target audience. Here is an example with KFC: ‘It’s finger lickin’ good.’

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What Is the Tone of Your Brand?

This point can sometimes be integrated into the challenge or the company culture description, but it is good practice to address this topic in a separate section. It is important to specify the voice you wish to adopt to make all your communications consistent.

To determine your tone, you need to find the right balance between your company’s personality and that of your clients. The tone must match their expectations, for example: a quirky and humorous message to attract young people, sobriety to appeal to technology enthusiasts, seriousness to reassure…

Here is a concrete example for an online store selling regional products: we want to convey the authenticity and pleasure of traditional flavours. Our discourse is dynamic, warm, family-oriented, and educational. We offer the opportunity to taste the cuisine of the South-West and learn more about our culinary traditions.

Which Channel Do You Want to Communicate On?

This question is addressed based on your target’s preferences. You need to be present on their preferred communication channel.

The operational team or the communication agency you engage can also recommend which channel(s) to use. It all depends on your project. Deadline and budget are the major determinants of your campaign. For example, creating an ad for social media or television does not cost the same and does not require the same production time. The same goes for sending an email versus producing a YouTube video.

What Are Your Budget Constraints?

It is possible that the creative brief, in the context of a call for tenders for example, does not specify budget constraints. However, keep in mind that these two pieces of information are necessary for:

  • Arbitrating and making decisions when alternative choices or difficulties arise
  • Sizing teams and technical resources
  • Setting an end date

To frame your project correctly and avoid unpleasant surprises, try to include a budget envelope or a price range in the creative brief.

What Are Your Objectives?

In this section, you need to succeed in translating the goal of this marketing operation into numbers. Your objectives must be quantified to measure the project’s success. Achieving your objectives also means the project is complete, for example:

  • This marketing campaign should help you gain 10,000 more followers on Instagram before the launch of your new product.
  • You must gain 1,000 new users on your mobile app to further digitise your customer relationship.
  • You must acquire 500 new customers without the acquisition costing more than €2 per contact…

What Are Your Deadlines?

Like any other project, it is also important to set time objectives. This is to avoid endless project delays that will harm the campaign’s performance. By proposing a production schedule from the start, you allow teams to organise their work time and avoid scheduling conflicts.

Set a start date for your project as well as an end date. You can complement your schedule with intermediate dates for milestones that seem important, for example:

  • Your project starts on the 1st of September with a kick-off meeting
  • 15 days later, you receive the first creative proposals
  • Between the 15th of September and the 1st of October, you proceed with a back-and-forth correction phase
  • On the 1st of October, you receive the final creative
  • The following 2 weeks are dedicated to the technical development of the campaign
  • The week of the 15th of October, you conduct tests
  • On the 25th of October, your campaign is launched

What Organization Mode Do You Want to Implement?

Here, you will designate the operational teams working on the project. These could be internal resources, external resources, or both. The important thing is to identify the different project contacts and their responsibilities to streamline the organisation. If you determine this point at the creative brief, it’s a definite time saver.

You can also list the collaborative tools or software you usually work with (especially if you don’t want to disrupt your teams’ work comfort or face time-consuming technical constraints).

Finally, include your deliverables in the creative brief. Deliverables are the final products delivered by the creatives (a banner ad, a poster, a video, an email, a web page, a slogan, a logo…). You can also include a technical description in the appendix of the creative brief. It indicates the desired output formats, dimensions, number of versions… Advertisers sometimes also request to receive all source components to use the creations internally afterward. They then become the owners.

Creative Brief Template, Some Examples…

In our creative brief examples, you’ll notice that the information provided is more or less detailed. This is normal since each project is different. However, you’ll see that they all follow the same framework. Moreover, just because a creative brief is concise doesn’t mean it’s not effective. The important thing is to cover all your key points and provide enough material to the creatives so they can deliver a coherent and high-performing project.

PayPal Creative Brief Framework

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Example of a Mini Creative Brief for Gray’s Cookies

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Reebok Creative Brief

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Garland’s Hardest Cooking Chef Creative Brief

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