Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Ten Easy Steps to Build a Creative Brief

By Guy Arceneaux 
Creative Director at Eco-OrbIT LLC

A creative brief is 
the basis for any successful creative project. This simple document should be your guidepost to a project’s scope of
work and goals.
You and your client can refer to it as the project moves forward.

As a client management tool, a creative brief is more than a professional courtesy—it demonstrates your ability to think as a strategic partner.

A well-crafted creative brief also protects you from "scope creep", documentation of the original assignment can aid in contract
re-negotiation should a project’s definition change. While the brief is
not a contract, it is a written agreement your client should sign.

Here are the ten things to cover:
These ten elements make for a solid creative brief. As you become comfortable with this process, you may develop questions suited to your area of practice.

1. OverviewDescribe the product and what the major features are, how is it seen in the marketplace?

2. Audience—What is the target audience and how should the product be positioned?

3. Offer—What is being offered to the prospect and what must they do to respond the offer?

4. Benefits—What main benefits make the product desirable?

5. Success—How will you and the customer determine success?

6. Brand Promise—Describe what the product promises to the customer—is it timesaving, safety, an ease of mind, or status?

7. Creative Assignment— What is the initial creative deliverable and what will be the final product? When is it due and what does the client expect in terms of presentation?

8. Budget— What is the range of costs the client has allotted for this project? Have you specified extra costs you may incur?

9. Requirements— What logo restrictions, format and production considerations need to be addressed?
10. Timeline— What major deadlines should you include to build a fully fleshed-out timeline?

Establishing a creative brief as a part of your normal business process will set you miles ahead of the competition. The payoff is in the clarity of focus that initiates the new job, and the rapport you and your client can develop.


© 2010 Guy Arceneaux All rights reserved.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

How to Write the All-Important Creative Brief

By Guy Arceneaux
Creative Director at Eco-OrbIT LLC

Suppose you're going to meet with a new client and the project description was not very meaty. You plan to get the information at the "fact-finding" meeting, right?

Here is a document to add to your account management file. It should end the "what a dummy" moment when you've neglected to ask for key information. Don't wait until the meeting to answer these questions, do your homework!

The Essential Questions:

What is the budget?
Notice, the first question starts with the hairiest topic. Discussing the budget up-front prevents you from wasting your time and the client's time.
• What are their accounting practices?
• Do they need to provide information to get on their vendor roll?

What are the project objectives?
What is the purpose of the project, the primary objective, the secondary objective?
• Raise market awareness by 25%
• Educate existing customers
• Enthuse potential donors
• Reposition the organization's image
• Meet a legal requirement
• Build company loyalty

What creative approach fits the market positioning?
Let me explain what is meant by "creative approach". We are not talking about a blue brochure or a specific type treatment. That is your baileywick, you determine design approach. A creative approach covers whether this is a hard sell, a soft sell, an informational appeal. Sophisticated, basic, operational, hip are creative approaches. Blue is not a creative approach, unless you are selling music.

Who is the target audience, the readers/viewers/customers?
Determine gender, age, socio-economic strata, occupation and 
geographic concentration.
• Are they knowledgeable about the service or product?
• What motivates them to act?

What is the product or service and what are its features?
Make a list of specifications, components and other details.
• How is it delivered and how does the prospect pay for the service?
• How has it been marketed before?
• How is it used in everyday application?
• What sets it apart in the marketplace?

What are the benefits to the customer?
Make a list of the tangible and intangible benefits.
• How will the target be better off for using this product?
• Does it save time or money? If so, how much?
• Are there metrics to back this up?
• What trade-offs might be in play?
example: higher quality usually means higher price

What are the two strongest benefits?
Rank them—concentrate on the two strongest. This is your platform, the audience will walk away with one main idea. Be as objective and specific as possible.
• What should the main take-away be?

What support is there for the benefits?
Get test data, focus group reports, user testimonials—proof of benefit claims. Accept only facts, not opinions; only specifics, not generalizations.
Is there a customer-satisfaction initiative, online help chat, a money-back guarantee?

What similar products/services are available?
The competitive market—get names, specifications, prices, good and bad features.
Did a key competitor launch a new service for a similar product?

What creative considerations, limitations or mandates do you face?
Examples: budget, schedule, size paper, use of color, number of photographs/illustrations, corporate standards, personal likes/dislikes (tread carefully here).

Who will take care of the components of the creative product?
Discuss these and identify areas to expand your involvement.
Copy? Photography? Illustration? Printing? Back-end coding?

What are the methods of distribution?
Where will the ad run, the brochure be used, the mailer be sent, the banner be placed?

Who is in the approval loop?
Don't assume anything. Find out how many people must review the project during the creative process. Ask them to be present for the creative presentation. A word of advice, junior people should not be relied upon for an official stamp of approval. Don't be dismissive of them, they someday may be the person who signs off on your creative.

What is the timeframe?
Do not, I repeat, do not be pressured into an accelerated timeline in a client meeting. You will regret it and you will lose money. Tell the the client a detailed schedule will be a part of the forthcoming creative brief. Need you say more?

Your follow-up is all-important:
1. Take the time to type a report based on this information.
2. Keep a copy of the brief in the job folder.
3. Send a follow-up e-mail no later than 24-hours after the meeting.
4. Get to work on that upcoming creative brief and timeline.
Yes, my creative friends, it takes a bit of hustle to follow-up. Believe me, it will pay off in the long run for you and your client relationship. You will have set yourself miles ahead of other designers.


© Copyright 2009    Guy Arceneaux      All rights reserved

The Creativity Spigot

It always amazes me how misunderstood the creative staff is at most agencies. Management's often peeved when creative staff straggles into the office at 9:30 in the morning.

Making the most of tough strategic challenges,
creatives are Sisyphus redefined.
Where were they when the art directors and writers were shutting down their computers at 10:30pm? Or when the entire weekend was devoted to completing an assignment due first thing Monday morning? Usually, the copy deck was written by 5:30pm on Friday, but the finessing of the design and creation of illustrations takes hours of experimenting. It has gotta pop!

I am not writing a gripe here but pointing out a fundamental fact most "suits" don't get about their creative staff. They are addicted to the creative process, the buzz of great ideas resulting in copy, typography, photography and illustration that can push your buttons. Creatives handle an addictive and fragile commodity—the lifeblood of the agency.

They work extraordinary hours, give up weekends and push their comfort zone to deliver great solutions. The money often doesn't match the hours sacrificed in the quest of excellence.

Creativity is simply not on tap like in some Microsoft template library. It is unique, a creative team that produces thoughtful solutions is a beautiful thing. Give that resource the room it needs to grow. 

Not everyone has the stamina to create three fully fleshed out concepts. Appreciate the effort your people go through to get great viable concepts. Encourage the flowering of creative teams by honoring their idiosyncratic process.

Support your creative teams, don't alienate them. An agency that celebrates the creative process ultimately fosters growth in all of its endeavors. It's that simple.


© Copyright 2009    Guy Arceneaux      All rights reserved