After spending a few weeks looking at some of the key aspects of the creative role and content, I want finish this topic with a few pointers to manage a creative brief for a project. A creative brief might well be issued under varied circumstances. The brief might be a part of a submission to help win a project appointment, it might come after a client has selected their marketing agent or it could be a new brief mid-way into a project.

It is more common that the creative brief will cover the anticipated life of the project and that can cover varied time frames, but during the life of the project circumstances are bound to change.

We know that the launch phase is a very different message from ongoing marketing several years along the timeline. What this means is that many advertising campaigns will kick off in the market well ahead of any product being available or yet under construction. Even where the campaign content is only focused on an ROI (Registration Of Interest) phase, the creative must be relevant to the task.

An ROI campaign does not really offer product as such, it is more the promotion of a future opportunity. For many buyers the message can be all about getting an early place in the queue and for clients and often the financiers it’s all about securing those all important early sales off the plan.

Some time later when a project is partly sold and buyers have moved in, the project has a new life force of its own and that will usually require different creative content.  These are only two points in what can be a complex marketing setting. Given the importance attributed to creative and its impact on the advertising budget and the sales path let’s look at how a good brief can be structured and then reviewed.

Getting Started

If we accept that the creative message must always help to drive sales, I think the first few steps in putting together a solid brief will usually involve the following well-established points:

  1. Have a very clear map of the market you’re going to be selling into – not an industry – but a layman’s version.
  2. Review the brief and the eventual submission with a consistent and if possible, diverse team.
  3. Avoid industry jargon.
  4. Agree internally and then set clear goals.
  5. Be open-minded – experience is to be valued but just as much, new ideas.
  6. Agree one final decision maker – committees never work.

With these key ideas in mind, and I don’t think I am suggesting anything revolutionary, let’s move onto how the formal brief is put together. While the process should not be made too complex, an investment in a solid brief will pay dividends.

I think that a formal brief can be prepared based around the points just discussed. Aim to include input from the entire project team, and this team should be as inclusive as necessary. I have also seen some benefit internally when preparing the brief because it brings into sharp focus many aspects of the project’s sales path.

This effort to prepare a brief, will also reflect how the client is structured and resourced, but in broad terms as I know from experience and from guidance issued by groups such as the APMA and the Marketers and The Communications Council, it is essential the brief should contain the following:
• Address all sales path issues of the project – revenue targets, timelines and all key financial matters

• Detail all competitors, market share, market dynamics, depth of the target market and all available demographics (and if necessary highlight any areas where more work is required)

• What are seen as the major marketing objectives – take a birds-eye view of this point

• Establish a clear vision for the project’s brand overview

• Agree the key messages

• Communicate yours and the clients objectives

• Detail the budget requirements – and this should cover a complete breakdown across all marketing related costs that the agency will be required to deliver – including all media rates and contracts

• Include an expanded competitive overview (that agencies invited to pitch can either supplement from their own research or not)

• Are there any Global branding requirements from the clients or your own internal brand guidelines

• Contract and payment terms and fee structure

• Outline in detail what you expect the pitch to deliver such as strategy, creative solutions, timelines, budget, the agency team

• Detail the time that will be available for the pitch and try to allow a reasonable timeframe– avoid rushing this important part of the project

• Detail how the pitch will be evaluated – this step can also help focus your own internal view of the project – have all points been covered

• Will any pitch fees be paid

As the Project Matures

Moving past the briefing process and the preparation of marketing assets, I feel it is important to help keep energy in the project with the Project Marketing group delivering a collaborative process.

As I have already suggested this is not a process of marketing or decision-making by a committee but a process that engages the experience of the team.

This involvement should have already started with the creative brief. If there is common ownership and consensus on the brief then this should help to short-circuit any potential problems, just the opposite in fact, creating enthusiasm and energy.

After the brief has been signed off the creative agency should respond with the required content and a creative presentation supported by a strategy and how their ideas will progress the marketing plans.

Then aided with feedback, the creative development would go ahead and between the project group, which now includes the agency, establish ‘ownership’ of the location and the marketing plans and I suggest that team ownership will always benefit the project and the client’s objectives.

It is however very difficult, even with detailed research, to understand exactly how people will see and react to a particular creative message or in fact the project itself.

What is clear however is the need for the creative message to change over time so that the message being sent to the market always has direct relevance. It is also possible that too much change can also create confusion in the market and damage the brand values of a project.

This is of particular relevance in Project Marketing where the time frame may well run over many years. The aim of the creative process is to get results, people on the telephone, people attending open for inspections, people registering their details, walking into the sales office or display home.

While creative is a subjective issue based upon individual opinion, there are a variety of tools to help manage this important area.  The brief and how the marketing is managed are key.

I feel that a team approach is important because when ownership of the creative and marketing is embraced and nourished by the entire Project Marketing team, a strong and successful sales path naturally follows. And that’s the result we all want.