Variations on the cReAtIvE bRiEf

A Creative Brief is a critical document because it identifies the difficult decisions that were made regarding what needs to be communicated. It also provides direction and inspiration to those developing the messaging. In this way, a brief reflects both convergent and divergent thinking. Since marketing is mostly about making decisions, the brief serves as a fulcrum in the creative process. 

For some agencies, the Creative Brief reflects their Secret Sauce. I did some research and stumbled across creative briefs from Weiden & Kennedy and Crispen Porter + Bogusky. They were posted by Dan Pankranz back in 2009. When you read through these examples and examine every word, it’s important to notice what was said and not said. I’m posting the copy from his blog, so you don’t have to go to the link. First Weiden & Kennedy (Pankranz, 2009).

The Weiden Brief:

It’s always great when you read a really simple and inspiring creative brief that led to awesome work. This is an abbreviated version of an old Wieden & Kennedy brief from ’05 that led to the famous ‘Happiness Factory’ campaign and the ‘Coke Side of Life’ tagline. I love its simplicity and pointy-ness (if that’s a word), emotive language as well as the fact it gave creatives numerous meaty departure points for idea generation. It nails a key consumer issue that’s built out of an obvious objective of restoring global sales.


ISSUE: Coke has become a forgotten friend

CHALLENGE: Remind people of what makes Coke special

BRAND IDEA: Coke is the genuine taste of happiness


Coke is delicious and refreshing.

It won’t restore the ozone layer or solve world peace.

But it will lift your spirits, especially when things aren’t going your way,

And you need a little taste of happiness.

This is when only a Coke will do.


REAL & HONEST – one of a kind, refreshes your mind and body like no other

INTIMATE & PERSONAL – Coke is the ultimate connector – partake in simple life pleasures

FRIENDLIEST drink on earth

JOYFUL & UPLIFTING – Coke is the eternal optimist, a ‘can do’ attitude reminds us that a better tomorrow always awaits


Then the approach by Crispen Porter + Bogusky (Pankranz, 2009).


I’ve always had massive respect and admiration for the guys over at CPB – I love 90% of their work, they continually create a culture with the work they do for brands like Burger King, VW and even most recently on Microsoft and Nike +. I  came across the key elements of their creative brief which I think are fantastic, as they lay the foundations for culture creating ideas. The key difference with other agency briefing formats is that they focus on ‘tensions in culture,’ not just looking at micro consumer insights or product insights, to which everyone has access. Here are their key elements:



– What is the most relevant and differentiating idea that will surprise consumers or challenge their current thinking of the brand?


– What is the psychological, social or cultural tension associated with this idea? What makes our target tense about the idea?


– What is the question we need to answer to complete this assignment?


– What about the brand could help us start a dialogue between the brand and our consumers, among our target and/or within pop culture?

The reason I like this briefing format so much is that is so different to that of 90% of the other agencies in the world which typically talk through Problem, Target, Insight, Proposition/Comms Challenge, RTB, Creative Thought Starters, Brand Personality. It’s also maybe why there work polarizes as their starting point is all about picking tensions in a culture that the brand can contribute/start a conversation around.

CPB calls tension the key element in a creative brief — whether the theme is deprivation, purity or, in the case of a campaign slated for this month, anger. (“Angry Whopper” spots will explore the “origins” of the new spicy sandwich – for example, a farmer growing “angry onions.”) “We’re always looking for these turbulent, emotional insights in the brief,” Klein says. “Most agencies wait for that to come out in the creative development process. For us, it’s something that we put more upstream.”

The process, he adds, “liberates” the creatives to try anything, so long as they “discharge tension around the insight, which is really, when you think about it, the essence of humor.”


You can see how the brief inspires compelling communication. But times are changing. Should the brief change also?

Here’s an opinion from Tom Brown of Facebook (Brown,2009).


I love the simplicity of a great creative brief: a sharply defined objective, a key consumer insight and a strategic idea that services them both. Creative briefs force marketers to commit to a single idea, and really good ones significantly increase the chances that the work developed will actually drive the business/brand objectives.  But after writing them (my agency days) reacting to them (my client days) and now thinking about them from a social perspective (my Facebook days), I’m convinced it’s time to add a little more nuance to the brief. Today there is room for two key insights, an engagement insight, and social insight. When you start off with both of these as the core to your strategy, you’ll be equipped to unlock huge potential in the increasingly connected world your consumers live in.

What is an engagement insight?

Engagement insights are the insights that marketers already spend a lot of time developing their marketing strategies.  It’s the “Why do I care?” component – the connection between the brand and the person receiving the message.  It’s that nugget we look for that exposes a unique way to approach the idea, and this insight is usually based on the relationship the consumer has with the category or the brand.

What’s a social insight?

If the engagement insight is centered on the connection between a person and a brand, the social insight is centered on the relationships between consumers of that brand and their friends/family. Here the question is “Why would I share?” Social insights are the motivations that live underneath people’s desire to share an experience, a perspective, a memory or passion.  It is these exchanges that shape our relationships. They are also a big part of how the world sees us. And it is from these two areas –belonging and identity – where we’ve seen some of the best social insights come.

You can read more at:


Even Google has gotten into the discussion. As part of their Google Firestarters series, they had thought leaders from top agencies and advertisers share how they’ve adapted the creative brief “to help drive projects in an always-on world” (Jones, 2015).

  1. Work in three-person teams
  2. Develop mini creative briefs for your advertising
  3. Plan for advertising beyond the launch
  4. Spend more time making


As you can see, the approach to creative briefs is varied and evolving. In whatever form they take, they still represent the difficult marketing decisions made by key stakeholders.

  1. Pankraz. (2009, May 11). An oldie but a goodie – Great creative brief led to great Coke work. Retrieved from
  2. Pankraz. (2009, April 8). Crispen Porter + Bogusky Briefing Format. Retrieved from
  3. Brown. (2012, February 24). It’s time to socialize the creative brief. Retrieved from
  4. Jones. (2015, December). How should the creative brief change in the always-on word? Retrieved from


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: