A good advertising brief gets your thoughts in a row and helps create success.

When you are hiring a new advertising agency the creative brief is the foundation of your success. Here is how to get it right and some examples / templates to help your creative team & account manager.

The No Brief Problem

No one likes to be in a situation where they are producing & submitting creative work to a business owner who constantly changes their mind or rejects work saying “I don’t like that, do it again”.

It’s like one handed clapping with little effect and you can’t measure the gap between the standard required and the marketing campaign proposed.

It’s a waste of time and demoralising for the team who are producing advertising campaigns that will undoubtedly be tested, more so by the target audience than the opinion of a single CEO.

The Too Detailed Marketing Brief Problem

If you brief gets in too deep you will miss your deadline and not leave room to split test.

Have a look at this template from a large corporate here in Australia. It is this one goes in deep and if you were producing omni channel mass media campaigns around Australia that might be appropriate.

For an ecommerce business it serves as an exercise as to what can you remove to make it work.

Marketing Communications Brief

Project Name:Gold Coast Northern Rivers Fencing Ads
Briefing Date:24/1/07
Launch Timing:28/2/07
Budget:Not much – 2 ads for a grand if reuse current formats? 
Campaign Manager:Hayley
Business Manager:Anthony

Section 1:  Market Context

This section describes the current market environment and sets the scene in which this specific task is being undertaken.

1.1 Product NameLysaght Smatascreen Fencing, Lysaght Neetascreen Fencing, Lysaght Miniscreen Fencing
1.2 What does it do?Colorbond Fence
1.3 Why would the market want it?To fence theirs homes  
1.4 What does the market generally think about the product?Think that all steel fencing is Colorbond fencing. Think that Gramline fencing is the Smatascreen fencing.
1.5 What is going on in the market/ industry currently?Competitors advertising their product substantially cheaper than ours
1.6 How does the product go to market?  Via general distributors, via specialist fencing distributors, via Lysaght direct cash sales or via competitors channel to market.
1.7 How is the product/brand currently positioned?Premium quality product
1.8 Who are the key competitors and how do we stack up against them?Gramline, Our Town Fencing, Stratco, MetrollOur fencing is better designed and aesthetically pleasing.
1.9 How active is the competition – what are they doing?Aggressive pushing all boundaries to get volume through mills as have such small margin need volume to get return on capital. Advertising aggressively on back page of Yellow pages phone books and regular advertising in weekly newspapers.
1.10 Overall Marketing StrategyContinue to differentiate on superior quality and service rather than cost leadership.

Section 2:   Outcomes & Measurement

The desired business and customer ‘outcomes’ for this task: where we want to get to, and what might be in the way.

2.1 Business ImperativeThis is a critical segment for Gold Coast business that is trying to specialise in Residential products – Roofing and Fencing
2.2 Business ObjectivesMaintain price differential and retain channel to market preventing our customers swinging over to cheaper alternative suppliers.
2.3 Communication ObjectivesChange perception of all steel fencing being Colorbond fencing.Increase awareness of Lysaght product benefits and channel services.
2.4 How will we know the communication is working?Increased or maintained sales volume at current $/T pricing
2.5 What is in place to measure this?Cognos reports for my area
2.6 What stands in the way of achieving the result?Competitor reactions further discounts, lack of sales rep resources to tend to customer relations, general lack of budget to advertise, perception that BlueScope Steel should advertise rather than BlueScope Lysaght, need for BlueScope Steel to compete inter-materially where as Lysaght competes with other suppliers in channel.
2.7 What other activities will be happening to help achieve the result?Additional calls to suppliers to make sure literature and product knowledge is up to scratch.
2.8 Previous activitiesRecent advertising prior to xmas has been successful as indicated by sales results. Might have prompted Our Towns campaign.
2.9 Business rationale for the budget (ROI related)Newspaper advertising over a number of weeks gets message repeated and seen by broad audience and the longer the time the greater chance of people being ready to buy reading it.

Section 3:  Target Audience

3.1 Target Audience – Who do we want to reach?  Who needs to be motivated to achieve our objectives? Retail / Cash sales customers who are putting their own fence up or looking for someone to do this for them. DIY mums and dads. The look and finish of the fence is important to them. Motivated by fear of poor looking fence or dream of a better resale value when sell home, or lack of money to maintain repaint, re-nail a timber fence or white ant eaten fence..  
3.2 Why them?Largest market at highest possible gross margin.
3.3 Where are they?Located around existing established cities and towns + new estates.
3.4 What do we need them to do to achieve the business results?Want them to buy with confidence from an experienced distributor or installer.
3.5 What do they currently think and feel about our product/ brand?Think Lysaght is too expensive and most are unaware of the brand.
3.6 Any qualitative insights to bring this audience to life?People generally get 3 or 4 quotes once they have decided what fence they want. So if they get 3 quotes from the list of suppliers we put in the ads Lysaght still gets the sale.

Section 4:   The Communication

The specific requirements for this brief

4.1 What will the target audience need to think for us to achieve our objective?  Lysaght is quality like they used to make it in the good old days. Built to last.
4.2 How do we want them to feel?Safe and secure in that they have made the right choice. Sound familiar ??.
4.3 Key Message:Lysaght fencing – looks better by designDesigner fencing – An architectural feel – clean lines
4.4 Support – Why would they believe this?Our R&D testing and warranty of our product. Our warranty coverage is generally larger than our competitors but is same term 10 years.
4.5 Copy PointsLysaght Neetascreen and Lysaght Smatascreen are trademarks of BlueScope Lysaght!!.
5.5 Mandatories & DetailsContact details as per previous Gold Coast /. Northern Rivers ads.Style as per previous ads.
5.6 Media – what do you anticipate being produced?3 column by 15 cm adobe ads. 

Section 5:   Next Steps

5.1 Timing1st draft in 2 weeks, final in 3 printed in paper 4th week.
5.2 Other Agency RequirementsNothing comes to mind.

Section 6: Approvals:

Please sign once you have agreed on the brief.

6.1 Product Manager/ Business Owner


SignatureVia E-mail
6.2 Marketing Communications Manager

NameHayley / Lisa

6.3 Regional General Manager


6.4 VP Marketing


The Project Managers Sweet Spot

As a rule you want to be able to answer everything in a spoken voice. A long time ago when I did media training to face TV cameras it was all about having your 3 key messages clear and ready to say under pressure.

A creative brief is like that. If someone was grabbing you by the shirt front and shaking you whilst yelling “What have you got to say for yourself. Give me 3 good reasons!” could you?

If you organize your thoughts about your product or service like this in advance then you can.

(John Carlton would call this a “gun to the head” situation.)

A really good approach if you have a sales team is to ask your best salespeople to write a creative brief for you. Ask them how do they pitch & close the product. Record that conversation and get it transcribed.

Make the brief fit the message not the sales message fit the brief. I think this is a major mistake lots of people make. 

If we are in business we are selling something. It’s not a bad thing. It might be selling a click, like or share or all the way to a subscription product but if it helps someone it’s good to sell.

The Digital Advertising Brief Is Different To David Ogilvy’s

The digital advertising brief is really a classic advertising brief that just has new medium to play with.

You can see in the David Ogilvy example below classic advertising might seem simple but it is based on principles that are powerful.

The setting up of “the problem and the promise” to resolve are so good. I think that a lot of ecommerce stores forget about these things and ads are sometimes just putting products on display as if they were on a shelf in the supermarket.

What might be missing that is applicable in the digital space is the medium to use and the expected measurement of the desired behaviour.

The 5 M’s You Need In Every Brief.

1. Message

What are the products that we are advertising and what are we trying to say in 3 simple key messages spoken out aloud.

  • Products or asset url: _________________________________________________
  • Key Message 1: _________________________________________________________
  • Key Message 2: _________________________________________________________
  • Key Message 3: _________________________________________________________
  • Any existing creative / copy / we know sells well? ________________________________
  • What proof can we show to back our claim or promise? ______________________________
  • Is there a Before and After Grid available? _________________________________________

2. Market

  • Who are we trying to talk to: _____________________________________________________
  • What makes them different from other groups not in the market? ________________________
  • What does their natural tone of voice sound like? ____________________________________
  • What does the competition say to them? ___________________________________________
  • Is there an Avatar sheet available? ________________________________________________
  • Can I look at your Google Analytics data for converters? _______________________________

3. Medium

  • What network or channels do we want to advertise on? ______________________________
  • What part of the funnel is this campaign? 
    • Awareness 
    • Consideration 
    • Conversion

4. Measurement

  • As a result of seeing this ad, what do we want to happen? ____________________________
  • How will we measure this? _____________________________ 
  • What is the benchmark target? _____________________________
  • Campaign Naming convention: 
    • Campaign level: [Start Date] – [Stage 1. Audience/2. Engagement/3. Conversions] – [Advertising Objectives)
    • Ad set level: [Country]-[State/City (if applicable)] – [Age Group] – [Gender – M/F/Both] – [Category 1- Interest/Workplace/Lookalike/WCA/Email List/Behaviors/Others] – [AND/OR (if applicable)] – [Category 2 (if applicable)]
    • Ad: [Product/Lead Magnet Abbreviation (if applicable)] – [Landing Page Abbreviation (if applicable)] – [Headline No.] – [Body Copy No.] – [Image No.] – [Call-to-Action No.]
  • UTM tracking convention: utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign={name of campaign}&utm_content={name of ad}

5. Money

  • What is the budget $/day for this campaign?
  • How is it to be funded, from overall budget or in addition to current?
  • If taking from existing, what gets turned off or down?
  • Start & stop dates of spend.

So you are welcome to copy and paste this into an Evernote Note for yourself and then duplicate it every time you have a new campaign to build.

As a bonus here are 10 campaigns you might consider making an advertising brief for.

  1. Awareness
  2. Engagement
  3. Opt In
  4. Tripwire Conversion
  5. Excitement & Core Product Purchase
  6. Quick Repeat Purchase
  7. Cross Sell / Up Sell
  8. Review
  9. Referral
  10. Win Back

What would you add or remove from the above 5M Brief Checklist?


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.