A Guide to Briefing Creative Agencies

briefing creative agencies at SomeBrightSpark

If you’ve been following our Creative Agencies blog series, you’ll already know that outsourcing creative work can really benefit your business. Whether you’re working with freelancers or a creative design agency, a successful outcome starts with a detailed and well-discussed brief. This is our guide to briefing creative agencies.

According to a report by AdAge, a survey designed to uncover ways in which clients working with agencies can improve, found that most of the 290 respondents reported frustrations with the quality of briefs provided.  Additionally 53% found that briefs lack focus and 27% reported briefs were incomplete and inconsistent. The report also highlighted the mentality felt by most agencies – ‘garbage in, garbage out’.

So, if you want agencies to produce their best work, always provide a detailed brief that can be discussed before anything is committed. To help, we’ve put together a quick guide to briefing creative agencies. Our advice comes from our experienced team directors managing both live events and creative content design. They’ll be providing their own thoughts and tops tips on how to approach briefing creative agencies.

Why is a brief so important?

A brief provides vital information about your company. Not only does it encourage you to think about what it is you are trying to achieve, it will help you communicate your company’s aims and objectives more effectively. A brief is also your chance to outline your expectations.

Creative Brief

Most agencies will provide you with a briefing document which you will be asked to complete. Typically, a brief will ask for details about your organisation, creative requirements, budget and deadlines. It is important to be as detailed as possible with your answers, as this will help your agency determine the best course of action.

Use the following points to help you construct and submit a brief. Remember that an agency should discuss your answers with you before starting any work. You’re not obliged to use their services even if you submit a brief to them. Read our previous guide on selecting the right agency for your business for more information.

Briefing creative agencies

1. Background

Providing a background to your company is vital. You may wish to include the following information:

  • What your company does/why do they exist
  • What products or services the company offers
  • Who your target audience is (specifically for the project)
  • Who your competitors are and what they are doing well
  • Where you currently sit within the market: This provides context and gives the contractor an understanding of what needs to be achieved. This is especially important if you are using an agency to grow your business or take it from point a to point b.

2. Target audience

If you’re briefing in a job that is targeting a specific section of your audience, it is a good idea to bring as much detail about them to the table. Obviously an agency can help you with this, but what we are really looking for is information about:

  • Behaviours
  • Influences
  • Motivators

Having detailed information about the audience helps to ensure that the final concept connects. It might be helpful to think about audience personas if you haven’t done so before.

3.The objectives

Here you will need to talk about the end goal and what it is you are hoping to achieve. Discuss what the problem is, what you are trying to solve and how this project will address those issues. Think also about why you need this project and how this fits into your overall objectives and mission.

It’s OK if you don’t have specific ideas about the end result. But, being clear about who your target audience is and what you are trying to achieve will help your agency to determine the most effective ways of connecting with and motivating audiences.

Your agency will want to ensure that the end result addresses the problem and that their solution is the most effective spend of budget.

4. Define success

Mat Bartram Design Director at SomeBrightSpark

Our Design Director Mat Bartram has over 15 years’ experience of delivering creatives for clients and always encourages clients to define success.

‘Even if your agency doesn’t ask for this, it’s a good idea to talk about what success would look like to you. Think carefully about how success could be defined and how you can measure it. If you’re not sure ask your agency to suggest solutions for monitoring and recording outcomes.’

The briefing stage is the perfect place to discuss how you’ll address issues of measuring success.

5. Likes/dislikes

At SomeBrightSpark we like to understand our clients’ likes and dislikes. We’ll ask you to find and include examples of campaigns or designs that you feel work well and we’ll ask you to tell us why.

Let’s be clear about this; we’re not looking for artwork that you personally like, rather examples of work that you think would help you achieve your project’s objectives. This goes both ways. Research the agencies that have made it onto your short list and find what body of work and designs they like as a company. We regularly pull together things that we have seen, loved and been inspired by, to make it easier for our clients to explore our tastes.

6. Brand guidelines

If you already have brand guidelines it’s a good idea to supply them with a brief. If agencies have access to brand guidelines they’re more likely to produce something that’s going to be recognisable and consistent with existing brand communications.

7. Budget

Don’t be afraid to discuss money. Agencies won’t ask you about budgets to understand how much money they’re going to make from you. Instead, they are trying to understand what they can achieve with the money they’ve got. It doesn’t have to be an exact amount but a ball-park figure will help.

8. Timings

Be clear about when you would expect key milestones to be delivered. For example, you may want to invite agencies to discuss the brief within 1 week, pitch their ideas within 3 weeks and deliver the final project within 10. This helps agencies not only understand your timescale expectations, but will also help them to book in work and check studio availability.

Final thoughts

Our final thoughts come from our MD, Dan Rogers, who takes a unique approach to harvesting creativity during the briefing process.

Daniel Rogers Managing Director at SmoneBrightSpark

‘Creativity, like music is hugely subjective, and at times contentious. Although good creativity should be well considered, and challenging, it should always be relevant to the brand and the audience. Like music, the time and place that it is received is as important as the idea itself, and this is sometimes difficult to convey when being briefed in a sterile meeting room or office. If you’re doing briefing an event I suggest creating your brief at the venue, where the idea will come to life? If this isn’t possible, then it is always hugely beneficial if this insight is incorporated into the brief itself. Who are your audience? What are their demographics? What will they get from your product, and in return, what do you expect back from them?

If you already have ideas of your own then it isn’t cheating to provide them to the agency as it will give them a set of base-notes or rhythms to work with but above all, don’t let your personal tastes and styles cloud the potential that a strong idea provides.

We often say that no one owns a good idea. Ideas gets more potent when they collide and rebound off other ideas and opinions. Therefore, allow it time to do this. Rarely is the presented pitch the finished article. Work with the agency to develop it, make it stronger and more relevant. Try to be clear about your budget and set clear parameters when briefing the agency. We always say that anyone can be ‘creative’ if you have unlimited funds. However, true creatives can conjure up pure magic from the most quintessence specs of dust (borrowing from the best of them).’