July 2019 - Importance of the brief - Banner Image

The Client brief. It’s not a title that regularly inspires much excitement. For anyone. In fact it’s often met with indifference, fear or even mild neglect. But think about it this way, a business with a £1m budget could lose £183,000 in sales* by wasting just two months on ineffective agency briefing and multiple rounds of creative. That’s 183,000 reasons to get your brief right. But there are many more too. In fact improving the briefs you send to creative agencies is probably the easiest way of improving the work you get back from them

We describe writing a brief as the most important single thing a client will ever do on a project. It’s from the brief that everything else flows. The better the brief, the better and more accurate the results. And the more time, effort and information you put in at the start, the greater the time savings throughout the process.

Informal briefs are no good.

A brief is there to give clear direction on what’s important and to clarify the issue that you’re seeking to address. The problem with informal briefing is that it makes a huge assumption that the person being briefed shares the unstated knowledge of the person doing the briefing. It’s likely that some key facts or knowledge on the client’s mind aren’t written into the brief, because they assume the agency will already know these or assume they don’t need to know. And that’s where the misunderstanding begins.

Restrictive briefs that try to define outputs and creative direction are no good.

Too often briefs are focussed on ‘outputs’ – a 30 TV ad, a youtube bumper ad, or a product explainer -and are focusing on technical or practical issues like time, length, cost or want an agency to produce something to a pre-defined formula. As logical as this sometimes seems, it just won’t get you the results you want, and also wastes some of the talent you have at your disposal through your agency relationships.


So what are the essentials of a good client brief? We’ve tried to boil it down to 5 key areas

1. Where are we now?

  • This includes the ‘offer’, an overview on the product or service you’re delivering.
  • Information on your target audience or priority customer, users, non-users etc, demographics and attitudes etc.
  • Your market position, what’s your brand share and dynamic (growing/declining etc) and your key competition.
  • What is your key problem or opportunity?

2. Why are we here?

  • Any research, insight and information that helps explain your current market position and situation.

3. Where do we want to be?

  • The objective, what is the change you want to achieve? And why?
  • How do you want customers to view the brand/product after the campaign?
  • What action do you want customers to take?
  • At what stage are you trying to move them in the customer journey?

4. What key obstacles stand in our way?

  • Again, any research, insight and information that helps explain your current position and any barriers to achieving your goal. This could be a lack of customer awareness, the position of a competitor or something more specific to your service or product.

5. How will we know when we’ve got there?

  • The KPIs and measurement methodologies that make it clear how success (and our work) will be measured.
  • What’s your definition of this?
    • Sales
    • Brand share, penetration, frequency
    • Image and reputation
    • Attitude or behaviour change

Only then do we input the practicalities of budget and time constraints, legal mandatories, brand guidelines etc.


In summary, a good brief is a collaborative document that should encourage partnership, allowing for agency input, best discussed face to face. It should focus on outcomes, not outputs and give clarity on the objectives, on what success will look like and give the agency freedom to find the right answer. It should have ambition and as a client you should demand an impactful, cut-through response that makes a difference. You want to feel excited (maybe even a bit nervous). You want help to see your brand or problem differently and invite your agency to bring their experience from other brands and markets, to add value.

*Assuming an ad/sales ratio of 3% and RGMI of 10%