We’re crouched in a roadside ditch about 25km north of Baghdad. Securing my M4 to my dust-caked shoulder harness, I reached deep under my heavy chest armor to pull out a small water-proof notebook. It’s time to give a Creative Brief. Okay okay, there really isn’t anything creative about it and it’s actually called an Operations Order. But the purpose is the same: deliver essential information effectively to your troops so they’re clear on the mission and everyone – down to the lowest rank – knows how to accomplish the objective. You know, in case something happens like your comms drop out in a blinding 120+ degrees sandstorm, or your Creative Director had to attend an unexpected site-visit at the new Firestone Brewery (I’m just giving you a heads up that’s going to happen) at 11 a.m. on a Tuesday.
There isn’t much of my military past that I can apply to my creative present, but the Operations Order is one of them. Sometimes you have weeks to prepare building a miniature movie set that would make Lucas swoon, and sometimes you’re crouching in a ditch in Iraq scratching in the sand with sticks.
In it’s simplest format, it is quick and direct – it cuts to the essentials. That lack of focus is the bane of most Creative Briefs; long biblical doctrines of bullshit that turn over every stone to include the anecdote about the CFOs nephew who burped up a yellow marble at Easter and hence inspired their spherical logo design. Sure, sure – there’s good stuff in there – but in the bulk of it the momentum and direction gets lost. Leaving the team bewildered and thinking only about joining their CD on mid-day brewery tours. And frankly, I don’t have time to write that shit, so it never gets done.
And so, in a wonderful blending of militant urgency and creative need, the Brief Creative Brief was born.
Following the format of the Army’s Operation Order this simple 5-paragraph (mmm…maybe more like keywords and sentence fragments) format gets to the project-specific goods without all the thirst inducing clutter. If it’s more than a page, you’re doing it wrong.
Here we go:
SITUATION: Recon. This isn’t a snapshot of your Wikipedia page, but the reasoning and background that has gotten the client to the point of doing this project. It’s also good to give a few keywords that describes the current state of the client.
MISSION: Objective. What are we trying to accomplish? Is it changing the perception of the client from those keywords we addressed above? Get butts in seats. We need to be as clear as possible, and highlight the main goals of the project in order to create. Again, highlight keywords. If in fact that sandstorm whips through our agency, our personnel need to know the direction we’re headed.
TARGET: Well…it’s the target. These are our demographics. Who do we want to engage with the this project? Who is the audience? It’s also important to quickly explain the current demo if we are looking to shift that focus.
EXECUTION: Deliverables. Often there will be an over-arching not-so-brief Creative Brief for larger campaigns. This brief is a breakdown of those individual parts so we have a measurable approach in accomplishable steps.
SCHEDULE: Oh yes, the deadlines. It’s important to set smaller, accomplishable goals and checkpoints to make sure the big drop-dead date is met and the creative on track.