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what is a creative brief

We’ve implemented a new system into our onboarding process — the creation of a creative brief! As a digital advertising agency, creative briefs are now our ultimate resource so our entire team can get to know you as efficiently as possible. What is a creative brief, you ask? It’s actually anything but creative and brief! Okay, we kid. There is a lot of creativity that is woven into the process, and it is brief (usually 1-2 pages long). 

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In all seriousness, a creative brief outline who the client is, their vision, and the scope of their campaign. The purpose of the document ensures everyone is on the same page. It allows everyone on our creative team to understand the client, even if they missed a meeting, and it lets the client know that we understand them and have a plan. 

They’re written right after the first team meeting with the client — at least, that’s how we do it — and we present it during our next meeting for their approval. This way, we all know what sort of tone to present in our creative builds, as well as what is important to highlight. 

In less vague terms, it’s a short document that outlines everything. Ours includes: 

  • A summary of the client
  • The scope of work
  • Key product/services
  • Value propositions
  • Positioning
  • Ad mockups
  • Demographics
  • Tone and messaging 

Written early on in the process to outline your understanding of the client and the scope of work.

Why write a creative brief? It shows your understanding, boosts your credibility and trust with the client. On top of that, a well-written creative brief will save you a lot of time. 

Why? Because a creative brief is the ultimate reference sheet when you’re building a digital campaign or website. It’s a tool that facilitates thorough communication from the very beginning. Everything in the brief will be exactly what your client wants, right down to the verbiage. 

Let’s look at a quick example. Say you’re working with a client who builds and designs homes all over the state but are based in a certain city. Instead of referring to them as Phoenix architects, they point out they want to be called Arizona Home Designers. Note that in the creative brief and you and your team will never forget it. 

It’s also a springboard for creativity and for time management. When everything you need is in one document, you won’t have to worry about finding answers. You can also pull from the language and objectives and run with it unhindered. 

Beyond that, the creative brief will help prevent last-minute project changes, misunderstandings, and conflicting objectives—all of which will cost your team valuable time and money. This all leads to you delivering a higher quality final project within your deadline. 

What’s in a Creative Brief? 

Every creative brief is different, though most share the same sections. Other companies opt for more visual briefs, but those are often less detail-oriented and more aimed at quick-facts. We already shared our creative brief method above, but here’s what each of those sections mean.

The client summary is pretty straightforward. You will pull out key parts of the client’s business to showcase in a short paragraph. This allows you to hone in on the proper language, while also showing the client that you have a deep understanding of who they are. 

It reaffirms that we know the client and that they’re in good hands. 

Campaign Objective

Campaign objectives are where we list the scope of work and a general plan on how we’re going to accomplish that work. When applicable, we also like to list the target CPA. The following is one of our actual campaign objectives with the client’s name redacted. 

“In working with the client, we will use paid search advertising, content creation, SEO, and Google Local to drive targeted traffic to the client’s website with the objective of generating leads for body contouring and other services.”

This section is meant to go over the scope of work as a reminder to everyone on our team and to the client. It doesn’t add much, but it’s an easy reference point.

Key Products/Services

As the name of this section suggests, this is where you identify and explain the key products and services for this campaign. It can be extremely straightforward, or it can highlight multiple products and services. How complex this section is depending on the scope of work. 

We like to use this structure: 

Key Product/Service Name

Brief description of the key product/service. 

Features of Key Product/Service

  • Feature One
  • Feature Two
  • Feature Etc. 

We wrap up this section with a price point of the key product/service, if available. This shows our clients that we know exactly who they are, what they offer, and why these are the key products and services. It’s designed to build trust in us and show our complete understanding. 

Value Propositions

Value propositions is where it gets a little more creative. This is where you pick four words or phrases that describe the value of this company over their competitors. It’s highlighting what makes them different and why they stand out. Every client will be different, so the better you understand your client’s business and their competition, the better this section will be. 

Value propositions are important because it shows that we know why the client is different. You’re not the average run-of-the-mill business. No, you’re better. We know it and this is how we show it. 

Positioning

Positioning statements really test your knowledge of the client. You have to pick two key features of the business that position them in a certain light in the market. Think of it like the old PC vs. Mac ads. One side is represented by a professional looking man, while the other is a casual looking teen. The message is clear: PCs are for business and spreadsheets, Macs are for the cooler crowd that focuses on living. 

This is your chance to position the client in the market. Are they charitable? Were they created for a specific industry, such as digital advertising (that’s one of ours!), or do they work tirelessly to make dreams happen? Whatever it is, it’s your job to find it. 

We like to use this template: 

  • Positioning Word/Phrase – A summary of what this means and how it relates to the business. Normally 3-5 sentences. 

Demographics

To wrap up the creative brief, we list out the target demographics for the key product/services. This is another reference point for us and allows our client to really think about who they’re targeting. With this collaboration, we can really hit the nail on the head the first time and present your business to the right people. 

Ad Examples 

We like to provide the client with a couple of mock-ups paid search and social ads when applicable to their campaign. This allows us to go through our thought process behind the ad campaigns and get the client’s input before we build the actual ads. 

How To Write a Creative Brief?

How you approach writing a creative brief is up to you, but here are a few tips that work well for us. 

  1. Be Thorough and Concise 
  2. Focus on Measurable Results 
  3. Define Your Voice and Tone for the Campaign
  4. Avoid Clichés 

And that’s it! It seems like a lot, but with some practice and a lot of understanding, you’ll become a pro at writing creative briefs too. Or if you’re a business looking for an advertising agency in Phoenix who takes the time to get to know you, give us a call. We’re there for you. 

Casey Watts
Casey Watts
Casey Watts is a writer at Helix House. She has a B.A. in Journalism from Western Michigan University and transitioned out of journalism and into marketing in October 2019. In her free time, she plays too many videogames with her friends, or she cuddles with her cat, Olive.