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The key to a good brief

Top tips from our Head of Media Planning and Buying

“The equation is simple, tightly written briefs plus passionate briefing equals engaged agencies, impactful campaigns and strong market results.”

(Source: IPA Best Practice Guide to Briefing)

Predictably January has involved a fair amount of self-reflection as we returned to work post-festivities, brimming with best intentions and new year resolutions. Our team agreed we wanted to review how we brief out our media partners, which led me to explore the idea of what makes a perfect brief?

A typewriter with the word 'brief' typed at the top of the page

In the ten years I’ve been agency side I can safely say no two client briefs are ever the same. From back-of-a-fag-packet to ‘War and Peace’, we’ve seen it all. People tend to be pretty vocal in calling out a bad brief, but it’s harder to answer exactly what makes a good brief and briefing process. Clearly the brief will always vary due to timescales, budget and the complexities of the requirements and as an agency we can’t be too precious, sometimes we’re just grateful to get anything! But in an ideal situation, what makes a great brief?

A woman presents to a boardroom

For me it starts with client and agency in the same room. If you have multiple agency-partners then I would advise getting them all together for this kick-off session. Aligning creative, comms and media from the off-set will lead to a more integrated campaign. In my experience, it encourages people to think more ambitiously and stirs-up a bit of healthy competition between agencies, which can be a great motivator to ensure you get their very best work.  

The briefing meeting should be led by the client and cover-off:

  • Background and context including an update on business objectives.
  • Campaign objectives (including KPIs), budgets and timescales.
  • Audience: target audience and any customer insights they can share*
  • Previous campaign learnings and results.
  • Brand; identity, values and personality.

*Insert small plea here: clients please note the more you can share and inform your agency the better the response. You can trust us, just as you would your internal marketing team.

Ringbinders full of paper

All of the above should provoke a lot of questions and some animated discussion. Personally, this is one of my favourite parts of the job when you have a new brief and (almost) anything is possible, your mind buzzing with ideas.

To draw the meeting to a close, roles and responsibilities need to be clearly defined before agreeing next steps and timeframes for the response. You might want to ask your agency to deliver a reverse brief as a demonstration of understanding, including KPIs to make sure everyone is focused on what you need to achieve. If you have your key agency partners in one place and time allows, it’s great to finish with some kind of social element (lunch or drink) to give people time to build productive working relationships and when appropriate to say thank you for their input.

Outside Orchard HQ

As a full-service agency we’re lucky to be able to pull together colleagues across Media, PR, Events, Studio and Production when answering a brief, harvesting all their ideas and experience. And with our on-site research space ‘The Lab’ we can product test our campaign ideas and creative with a workshop session using qualitative research techniques to capture those undisclosed insights.

I can’t point you to the science here, but to me it seems obvious that investing more thought and creativity in the briefing process will result in more thought and creativity back in the response. We always aim to deliver the very best work for our clients, giving us the right tools and information just makes sure we set-off on the right track.

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