8 thoughts – How to save the (unknown) brief

Who hasn’t criticized “more than once” an advertisement, the improvement of the packaging of a product we’d been buying for years, or the updated logo of this brand that has been part of our lives (without us even noticing it) ever since our earliest childhood? That those of you who are concerned (this has probably happened to you already) simply admit: “Well, you’re right but… what was the brief?” All that said, of course, with this feeling of innate sympathy, to the team that has undoubtedly worked and received a mission (or not. Sometimes the briefing is only a brief call from the airport to tell you “you already know the subject well, prepare me something creative because I want to make a good impression at the next Management team, blah, blah, blah…”), in order to go further, to achieve a concrete objective / concrete improvement.

It is normal and obvious to look for a little more context: “What you say makes sense but we do not know what was asked for, what was the budget, or how long they had to reach what now seems so obvious to criticize, do not you think? ”

A briefing is only the beginning of a project, you have to go further (or more here … Sometimes the briefing consists “to draw because of an unfair penalty at the last minute, and without VAR (Assistant video assistant)! “).

Then, after half a decade, comes a series of very personal reflections, after having received and asked for many briefings, confused in the briefings, obsessed by the desire to go further and bring more value, by always working with very good people encountered throughout his career: professionals with different profiles, in different sectors and markets and working for brands that are also different:


Start the project with a purpose

A briefing is a request to reach the point where we suspect or know that we will not be able to arrive, as evidenced by the image attached – briefing of Mick Jagger to Andy Warhol in 1969 (more than 50 years have passed, time flies …)

It is also a “letter to Santa Claus” (that is to say to the person we are asking for) to ask for help, what I want, what I dream …

brief andy warhol

Clearly define what is wanted, with no empty words

The more we think about what we really need and the more we are able to explain and synthesize it clearly, the more others will be able to understand it: this is especially true for the team receiving the briefing. Share it, weigh the pros and cons (there are people who bring a lot of ideas, others less) … A briefing is still alive. Look for inspiration in distant or near territories, read, make several attempts, look at things from another angle … Make yourself understood; you have to convey a clear idea with your own personality.

Focus and gain intensity

It is necessary to analyse the briefing and even to torture it a little too. To let it rest several days, to reduce it as much as possible to a sheet … To be able to explain it in a maximum minute. Simplify it, be conscious about it, let it rest one more day and come back to the point of reaching the essence of your briefing, that we can feel that yes, that’s it, it’s a quality briefing, which is very promising.

Avoid long lists of “mandatories”: they generally only “distract and discourage” those who are in front of you. If there are “mandatory” topics (like the logo, of course), it is good that the mandatories are not more numerous than the rest of the briefing … (And I think of an example of a briefing for a product that dates a few years ago, where there were 24 “mandatory” points, which was a shame, this brief would have been perfect at the Museum of Marketing Horrors!)

Be stimulating and intellectually exciting: especially during briefing sessions

Put work into the briefing sessions: where will we hold it, how important will the music be, what external items will we use. Make sure the people receiving the brief “remember it forever” and get home that night looking forward to working on the brief more than any other project because of the challenge, the team, the job itself, the launch… Because, in short, they’ve taken it on board, we’ve connected with them, and they want to go above and beyond the brief!

Looking back, I’ve been in memorable briefing sessions in an abandoned house next to a beach, in the Olympic stadium in Montjuic, and the Guinardó Park in Barcelona. I’ve also been in too many predictable briefings in boring meeting rooms in the Agency’s or Client’s Office (I’ve never liked the word client), some of them didn’t even have croissants…. It’s a hard life, as Freddie sang.

Be respectful, empathise, believe in the “other party”

At the end of the day, we’re all God’s creatures and making a connection with the other party makes everything much more bearable, productive, and normal. Take an interest in the creative team, ask them about their most recent successes, know whether they’re into football or are more rock fans… The idea is to add value by helping the creative drive to come to the fore because they aren’t just label-producing machines. It’s good to repeat, digress if needs be, break a rule, and then get back to the brief and finish on three or four key points. It’s about making the invisible visible and giving a full challenge. The challenge and overcoming it really is stimulating, isn’t it?

Stimulate creativity using everything that our professional and personal know-how can offer: an anecdote about current events that reinforces a point from the brief, a touch of irony, a bit of humour or a surprise (anything apart from the predictably boring or downright false that you don’t really believe yourself).

“The pain of meeting the brief… and not feeling anything” or how to understand how you feel and express it appropriately.

An idea, or at least something, should be remembered.

There’s nothing worse than seeing that the brief has been met, that all the ingredients are there but having that feeling that your emotions don’t match, that something’s missing. A feeling of nearly but not quite.

And the opposite: the emotion of feeling previously unknown waves of joy (this is the one, I know it is, I can feel it, I can see it on everyone’s face) because we’re going above and beyond the brief, because my creative drive has been perfectly able to explain it elegantly and concisely. Get that tingling feeling of having achieved something big; our instinct is never wrong.

Look for support so that all the effort makes it to the “real word” and we can see the results.

Points 1-6 were about being able to give information and find internal supports (from your colleagues, from your team members, from your superiors) in the organisation, and getting that feeling of real optimism and excitement about what we’re going to do/develop. To be even clearer: almost all GMs (whether they have marketing experience or not) and lots of other key people in organisations love giving their opinion/saying something (but never at the brief stage… you know what I mean, don’t you?). Sometimes they add value and sometimes they get in the way: let’s just be aware that it will happen. You just have to know how to manage it (just like Sunday lunch at your in-laws, we know it’s coming… and that’s great!).

Achieve and share stimulating results: having good numbers is usually a big help. Be able to give a simple explanation to the complicated issue of what is happening at the moment.

Positive results (sales, ad recall, comments from consumers/clients, and so on) will create togetherness, but beware that a little bit of stormy weather will see your supporters run and hide. So, you have to look for and achieve good results by changing what needs to be changed, knowing how to explain the story/message convincingly, and being in control.

If that doesn’t happen, the brief and many of its points and even people will be questioned: we have to know that these are the rules of the game. Some dare to go big and others don’t. We know that endorphins and adrenaline course through our veins during the process and it’s amazing. We are just as good workers when the project goes well as when it doesn’t; in the meantime we’ll keep on dreaming of magnificent stories and challenges that make our hair stand on end; going into overdrive instead of going nowhere; and giving the brief our very best as the start of a process that will go far. Connecting, stimulating, making our mark. All is fair in love and briefs.


It’s your turn now (if you’re up for it…):

1-Find out the result of Mick Jagger’s brief to Andy Warhol on 21/04/69 (easy, right?), what album cover of the Rolling Stones did it appear on?

2-Research what the brief was for the covers of the four following great albums “Dark Side of the Moon, Misplaced Childhood, Sonic Temple, Weld”.

About the author: Jose Carlos Andres
-Senior strategic consultant
-Former marketing irresponsible at: PortAventura, Hero, Borges
-Brands, storytelling & people lover
November 19th, 2019 | Strategy
Little Buddha Brand Design Agency

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