Writing a Creative Brief

Many creative marketing projects get underway without a clear sense of expectations between the marketing folks requesting the project and the creative folks delivering upon it, resulting frequently in lost time and expensive rework. A marketing brief is the best way for the marketer to clearly lay out a framework for the creative team. The process can be driven by either side – creative or marketing – but both sides need to agree on the brief before the work can commence. Here’s the Creative Brief Template (click here for printable version) I used at Apple Computer for many years.

Background:
Please summarize this program and what you want to achieve:
How will you measure the success of this program?

Who is the Primary Audience?
What should be avoided in talking to this audience?
What do they believe before we tell them anything?
Who is the secondary audience?

Objectives:
What objectives are you trying to achieve?
What are the priorities of those objectives?
Can you suggest strategy or positioning to achieve the objective?

The Message:
If you could get one sentence through all the clutter, what would that be?
If they asked you to prove it, how would you do that?
What other major points do you want to communicate?

The Medium:
What is the best way to reach this audience?
Is there another way?
Are there existing pieces that this piece must work with?
How will this piece be delivered to the audience?

Anything Else:
Any other design objectives or special circumstances?
Are there any mandatories that must be in the piece?

The Deadline:
When must the message get to the audience for maximum effect? (i.e. trade shows, events, product intro dates)
When must we deliver the finished work?

Budget:
How much money do you have to spend on this project?
Has this budget been approved? By whom?
What quantities do you need to produce? (for printed pieces)

The Responsible Parties:
Who needs to sign off on final execution?

This article is written by Elise Bauer and licensed under a Creative Commons License with some rights reserved. If reposting this article on a website, please host all graphics on your own site and link back to this article at http://www.elise.com/web/.

5 thoughts on “Writing a Creative Brief

  1. Elise,
    I was the person behind the birth of this particular creative brief. In fact I instigated and rewrote most of it.

    I am flabbergasted that:
    1. Anybody would still have a copy.
    2. Anybody would still think it’s worth keeping. (Although I do.)
    3. That “Anybody” is you, my dear Elise.

    A brief history of this creative brief.

    About 12 years ago, while working in Apple’s Creative Services department, it became clear that there was no consistent method of initiating creative jobs.
    Deciding we needed one was the easy part.
    Deciding how to get one was harder.

    We enticed Bruce Bendinger, a noteworthy Chicago creative director, copywriter, jingle composer, renaissance man and author/editor of two very important books for creative people “The Book of Gossage” about Howard Gossage, and “The Copy Workshop Workbook.”

    The latter book, although specifically about writing copy, is also about how to go about thinking about products and projects. Which means it’s about getting the information straight at the beginning of a job.
    Bruce includes creative briefs from many advertising agencies in this (highly recommended) book.

    I didn’t know Bruce at the time, but tracked him down, called him up, and asked him if he could come to Cupertino, and hold a workshop on how we could build ourselves a creative brief.

    The result is the creative brief you’ve kept all these years.
    -Rich Binell

  2. Awesome!!

    You are a beacon shining forth the vision of reduced stupidity in the world by helping people work smarter. That creative brief probably saved Apple millions of dollars of lost time and wasted effort. Probably still does for all I know. :-)

  3. Okay, we know the history of the creative brief. Has anyone heard of an “audience wheel?” It’s something I recall seeing in the 80s — it basically shows the message at the core with spokes emanating out to the various audience segments. But for some reason, I’m not finding that graphic any where, or even any reference to it? Am I imagining it?

  4. Elise,

    I read (and use) simply recipes all the time, and now while looking for some creative brief templates I was directed here… What can I say, except thank you for being a reference in so many areas.