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Sweden's top talents redefine the "creative brief"

Having allowed Dave Trott's lectures to go to our head 'rewrite the brief' used to be our mantra, as far too often the brief that lands on your desk is too long, poorly targeted, and often just plain confused not knowing if the goal is to expand the market or expand the market share. The Swedish Association of Communication Agencies (KOMM) feel your pain, people, and they assembled a gaggle of Swedish ad celebs to help redefine the creative brief ahead of the national advertising award show Guldägget.

Those participating in the work shop ranged from copywriters like Rebecca Oswald (Garbergs), to ad agency CEO's like Ann Ystén (Perfect Fools). Former Creative Director & CEO, now creative advisor and the founder of Åkestam Holst, Göran Åkestam. From the client side comes Caroline Forsshell, marketing and communications director at Lidl, from academia Erik Modig, doctor and researcher at Stockholm School of Economics, and the lone brave account Director was Stefan Rudels from Forsman & Bodenfors.

I read their new creative brief and asked Ann Ystén a few questions. “One thing seems to be missing from the brief, and it's the "single minded proposition". What made the panelests choose to remove what is arguably the strongest tool to carve out a creative idea? How do the panellist suggest that creatives concentrate their creative efforts in absence of this? Do they have any advice on how to distill a brands selling thought now that the brief will no longer do it for them?”

Ann responded: “The assignment was to write a brief that could work for both client and agency. The group suggested that this brief is written during a work-shop together with the client. The single minded proposition is something that should be developed during the creative planning process as a product of the insight work and not necessarily defined in the initial client brief.”

So the new creative brief is as follows:

Cover page to creative brief

1) Why do we exist?

2) Where are we?

3) Where are we going?

4) What values / opinions do we have?

5) What do we measure?

Creative brief

1) What is the problem / opportunity?

2) Why?

3) How can communication help?

4) What do we say?

4a) Is it distinctive?

4b) Why should you care?

5) Who are we talking to?

6) Which external factors affect the mission?

7) What does the competitors do that affect?

8) What's the goal of the operation? When / how do we measure it?

9) When should it be done?

10) What will it cost?

11) Who should be involved?

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The Planning Lab's picture
M'nemo's picture

Is www.creative-brief.com associated with the KOMM people? Why is Sweden so preoccupied with the brief all of a sudden? This is very interesting, thanks.

The Planning Lab's picture

Hi N'nmemo!
No, I'm not associated with KOMM in any way. I am however associated to Berghs School of Communication where I frequently lecture on planning and creative briefing for planners, creatives and client side, and I have also chaired the Swedish Account Planning Group. In my experience as planner, the trick is not about defining the headlines of the brief. A quick google search will give you many good examples of different brief styles (usually a consequence of the agency's creative philosophy). Rather, the key to a crisp brief is about asking the right questions in the planning process that creates thinking that's unexpected and original, beyond the obvious.

Dabitch's picture

Thanks Planning Lab.

Not sure why Sweden is so preoccupied with briefs all of a sudden. I think it's partially due to the literal explosive growth of creative and marketing industries and schools that teach it here, combined with ever larger groups of students eager to learn everything. It's only natural that planning and strategy skills become important on both the client and agency sides. Couple that with the ever evolving media and fragmented targets, and you have a distinct need for a creative brief created by both agency and client to outline goals.

The Planning Lab's picture

@Dabitch, you are absolutely right.
First, planning has become more important as the communication landscape has become more complex. To quote Donald Trump "we have to find out what the hell is going on". Second, clients have greater access to creativity than before. The CMO–"Lead agency" relationship is becoming less relevant today as clients can shop for creativity and sometimes even production without the agency middleman. Sometimes this is more efficient, sometimes it's not. Regardless, the strategic brief as a means of clarifiying the strategic thinking is becoming more important. Note that we're not talking about the brief as a "document template", but rather as a tool for greater efficiency in the process.

Dabitch's picture

Yes, precisely, good point Planning Lab. The fragmentation of creative service industry has a lot to do with it as clients reach out directly to vendors of certain media and disciplines to commission creative directly, without a lead agency leading the way. This places a lot more responsibility on the buyer, and the marketing department client side. Lets not forget there's tons of startups that have opted to have nimble in house creative units who handle most of their own marketing, only going outside for larger jobs such as branded content or a national commercial campaign.

Steven Stark's picture

The hardest part is making them inspiring. Here's a short presentation I put together on that very subject: http://www.slideshare.net/stevenstark/the-brief-for-the-sistine-chapel