Digital Marketing
2
min read

A Guide To Building A Better Agency Brief

Published:
September 14, 2022
Updated:
August 1, 2023

As agencies and clients fight over deadlines and deliverables, timelines and tactics, the world of advertising can be contentious at times. When an agency’s team knows how to properly engineer and execute awesome briefs, they can avoid a pain in the neck process and deliver a powerhouse campaign more easily.

Both agency and client are desirous for campaigns that deliver results and ROAS. But, sometimes in this quest for reputable outputs, clients simply ignore the required inputs and information that pushes an advertisement from good to great. A better briefing process can set up your agency, and clients, for success; but what goes into a quality agency brief?

Your Agency Brief Should Be Specific

One of the main factors in creating a solid agency brief is having a solid understanding of the client’s business goals and the results the advertising campaign is forecasted to deliver. 

A good outline for a brief should include, but not be limited to, these items:

  • A historical summary of the history of the brand and related campaigns
  • A firm objective for the project
  • A description of the target audience
  • An overview of the competitive landscape
  • Deadlines, timelines, and target dates for deliverables
  • How the performance of the campaign will be measured

An effective brief straddles the space between the business needs of a client and the capacity of an agency, which is why account managers are a critical partner in drafting a high quality brief. 

In a creative industry like advertising, account management is often derided as one of the roles in an agency that doesn’t provide value. But, an account manager’s relationship with a client can often provide invaluable understanding of what a client is looking for from a campaign, and how best the agency can turn wants into deliverables.

For more insights on how account managers help build a brief better, listen to our conversation with Faizan Ali, Account Director at VMLY&R on the NinjaCat podcast → “Career Spotlight: Agency Account Management.” 

Your Agency Brief Should Be Realistic

Whether it’s a sandwich delivered to your door, a transformative overnight skin care regimen, or same-day shipping and free returns, in an on-demand, convenience-based world, consumers are used to getting what they want, when they want it. It’s no different with agencies and clients.

This yearning for real-time results needs to be checked when writing a brief for advertising campaigns. Digital marketing, its associated digital marketing reporting dashboards, and up-to-the-minute reports, have given most agencies and clients an unrealistic expectation about campaign timelines and transparency into tracking outcomes.

A realistic brief is informed by an agency’s ability to deliver results in a timely fashion without burning out the staff and blowing through budgets and resources. The brief should include level-headed summations about how a campaign will be created, revised, and signed-off in order to set expectations for both the agency and client. 

A Solid Brief Helps Track Effectiveness

One of the most powerful benefits of a well-outlined brief is that how a campaign’s outcomes will be measured are spelled out before the work even begins. So many campaigns start with what-ifs. A solid brief helps detail the how-to.

By including performance metrics in a brief, agencies and clients can realistically frame their desired results and ensure they have the proper analytics set up to track the effectiveness of their campaigns.

There are many attribution models in digital marketing and methods to measure performance metrics. In a properly prepared brief, these metrics will be detailed before the creative team gets to work on the idea. In turn, this helps inform every feature of the campaign from creative execution to media planning. 

Is the campaign hoping to generate leads, get direct response, or boost brand awareness? Will the performance of the campaign be measured strictly by Return on Ad Spend, or will Customer Acquisition Costs or Lifetime Value be considered? 

Answering these questions in a brief can set up an agency to deliver a campaign that will not only resonate with the audience, but ring the client’s cash registers as well. 

When To Ignore The Brief

One thing to remember about a brief is that it’s a living breathing document, not a bible. A great brief doesn’t mean that an agency's work is literally spelled out for them. Once a solid brief is in hand, the hard work of coming up with killer ideas now lands on the agency’s creative team - which is when it might be time to ignore the brief. 

In a recent podcast interview, Creative Director and Founder of the UK-based creative agency Halo, Nick Ellis, speaks to the importance of recognizing an agency’s interpretation of a brief. He notes that it may be necessary to ignore a brief entirely in order to generate truly creative ideas. 

“The best thing is to give freedom and permission to challenge a brief and rethink it,” says Nick. “Freedom and time are the key ingredients to taking a campaign to the next level.”

“With our creative team, the best way to keep the fire burning is to give them space. A really tight objective brief helps, but a tight creative brief doesn’t help the agency come up with any groundbreaking ideas.”

Given the weight this article places on the briefing process, this may seem counterintuitive. When it comes to ideation and execution, agency creatives should familiarize themselves with the client’s demands, while also feeling free to interrogate the brief and even ignore it in the quest to develop breakthrough ideas.

Listen to Nick talk more about briefing on the NinjaCat podcast in his episode, “Branding and Creativity in Advertising.”

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