The only briefing template you’ll ever need

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The value of a good brief is massive when it comes to developing impactful and original work that delivers on objectives. It can be the difference between the success or failure of an activity, and it can also ensure your budget is used in the most efficient way.

So, in the interest of saving you (and us) time, we wanted to share our briefing template with you.

You can download it here (just scroll to the bottom of the webpage in the link).

Use it internally, use it to brief us or use it to brief others – we don’t mind!

What makes a good brief and why is it key?

An effective brief sets expectation on both sides. For the client, it’s telling an agency what the ask is. For the agency, it’s giving them something to pit their skills against, helping you as the client see what that agency is capable of. Seems a bit basic, right? But receiving a ‘brief’ without a clear ask is a regular occurrence for many agencies.

And creating a good brief is relatively simple – whether you’re looking for a problem-solving strategy or blow-your-mind creative concepts – the fundamental information stays much the same.

The point here is quality, not quantity. It’s not about adding a speed bump in the process of working together – it’s providing a ramp from which a piece of work can really take-off from. Background is helpful, such as what the brand is about, why the brief has landed and what the campaign will support. Try and keep to the facts and try not to list preferences, as this will only limit thinking.

Beyond that, it’s about focusing on what the challenge is and what change you want to affect. This might be through a one-off campaign, to support a product launch for instance, but it can also be an ongoing brief that ensures all communications from the brand ladder up to an overall brief and challenge.

As Dave Trott says, all too often, “briefs are about a solution, defining the problem” rather than being a brief that changes, and reframes the problem. He sums this up well through a series of examples including this: The brief for Audi wasn’t ‘sell our cars’, it was ‘Audi is German’. He also quotes Einstein when he says, “If I had an hour to solve a problem, I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about the solution.”

In essence, we want a brief to be thought provoking, to demand creativity and to get your agency, team, or colleagues thinking in new and exciting ways.

It takes practice and care to write a succinct brief that is interesting to those tasked with responding to it. Here are some great example briefs from the 2021 D&AD New Blood Awards competition:

  • Open young adults’ eyes to the world of languages and inspire them to weave language learning into their daily routine with Duolingo, with an integrated campaign launching at the start of the school year.
  • Create a digitally led campaign that makes 21–27-year-olds stop, unplug, recharge and refresh with Coors Light.
  • Create an evocative, hyper-relevant brand building campaign around the 100th Anniversary that will make young adults into lifelong Disney fans. The challenge: turn well-loved 90s and 00s nostalgia into hyper relevancy for 2023.
  • Design an in-person and digital experience that helps Tesco build a trust-based relationship with the nation and tells them how Tesco are bringing to life ‘Every little helps’.

On first read, they may seem simple and functional – but each of these contains a lot of information. Take the final one for instance. Already, we know Tesco wants an in-person and a digital experience. The aim is to build trust with British people, and they want to communicate existing work under their brand tagline.

Ultimately, a brief that’s well-developed, concise and engaging is going to lead to routes and ideas that deliver on expectations. A long, rambling brief that takes hours for a team to decipher usually comes about because the person writing it doesn’t know what they want or need the agency to deliver.

So, you’ve nailed the challenge – now what?

The ‘surprise me’ and budget sections of our downloadable brief template are the ones that are most often deleted by those filling it out.

The ‘surprise me’ section probably is the most expendable of the sections on the brief. However, it’s a great opportunity to illustrate what you’re looking for and to add colour to the challenge from a brand perspective. What work is already out there that you aspire to? Are there interesting ways in which people already engage with your brand or challenge that you’ve unearthed? These are all questions the responding agency will also answer themselves during the insight gathering and strategic development leading up to creative.

Budget parameters are often overlooked when briefing. “We don’t want to constrain your thinking” and other such comments get more than an eye-roll from us agency folks. Often, this can mean ideas are developed and then pared back to a limited budget, losing their identity and spark along the way. Set parameters, even if there’s a massive range. That way, at least the team responding can put realistic proposals in front of you, at either end of your available budget. Take your agency seriously. Trust them to respect your budget. Ask for stretch or shrink proposals if you want to see what else might be possible on a bigger (or smaller) spend. 

So, take our brief. Share it with your colleagues. And practice. In the same way we as an agency become more creative the more we have the chance to express our creativity, the ability to brief effectively can also be honed through regularly creating concise and thought-provoking briefs.

And don’t forget to fill out the budget.

If you’d like to send a brief our way, or have a collaborative session refining a brief before taking it on, get in touch with our Creative Lead, Kevan.

  • Kevan Barber,
    Creative Lead