Financial marketing


Should Clients Throw Away Their Briefs, Creatively Speaking?

18th October 2022

The Client Brief. It can take many forms. Here’s a few, for fun, that we have seen the like of over our careers:
1. ‘This is what our last agency did. We don’t want this.’
2. ‘Oh, you know what I want’
3. ‘We need something whizzy. It needs to cut through’
4. ‘Here’s our written brief and some recent market research we have undertaken, together with some client personas we created last year, our desired outcomes and an indication of budget.’
5. ‘Let’s spend some time together. Get to know us and our business. We’ll share our business plan and then we would like you to create the brief you think will get us where we need to be.’

Which works and which doesn’t? That is a very loaded question and to be honest there is no ‘magic bullet’ client briefing process.

It all comes down to chemistry and time spent working together. You see, if you know and like each other, there is no end to the shorthand you can use effectively to get the right outcome. However, shorthand does always carry an element of risk – risk of misinterpretation, risk of sticking to’ well-trodden paths’, risk of ‘group-think’. But it can work beautifully if it works for both parties.

Time is always an enemy of briefing. There are always ‘time bandits’ lurking and proper thinking and talking time can get squeezed into a snatched call at the end of the day. Time to talk and discuss is probably the most valuable part of briefing processes. It always astonishes us when we are handed a tender document that states that ‘the team will not be available for questions’. This seems bonkers give the time and investment both sides are making.

You’re probably thinking that most agencies would prefer No4? Hey, you would probably be right. It does offer the opportunity for some ‘deep diving’ and ‘immersion’. But inevitably it will raise as many questions as it answers because things written down always do. The talking bit still has to happen.

For us we like No5. We know our way around spreadsheets and run our own business, so the context of the business plan is vital. It tells us where you have been, where you want to be and what you have done to get yourself where you are. We’d prefer a plan and a few hours with the SMT to a prescriptive brief. For example, it’s amazing what a bit of time with the Head of Sales opens up that marketing teams may have missed because of a lack of contact, especially in recent times.

Having been the recipient of many briefs, agencies inevitably like to write briefs. It’s because they know what’s going to be important to their own team in getting the creativity flowing – the buttons to press if you will.

We recently had a project where the client chose No5 without any prompting from us. It was a deliberate move because they felt that they had stifled avenues and ideas in previous agency projects because of the reasons stated above, like ‘group-think’.

So, we set about it by having a long chat without any borders and barriers. It gave us a feel for the business, the people and the passion. It also gave us an unadulterated look into the natural messaging used by real people every day (sometimes this throws up some golden nuggets for copywriting).

Next, we did our own market and competitor research using a model we have created for just this occasion. Then we wrote the brief, presented it to the client and explained why what was in it, was in it.

When the creative, copy and plan were presented it was wholeheartedly accepted by the client with a unanimous ‘we would never have thought of that’.

So, what is the answer to the question posed in the title? Should you throw away your briefs? Emphatically, No.

It’s important to take the time to think carefully about briefing. Whatever process works both for you and your agency is valid.

But the destination is always the same – to have your agency create the stuff you would never have thought of yourself. Start there and work back in thinking through how you are going to get the best thinking done.