Can you explain your brand to a six-year-old?

Albert Einstein famously said, “If you can’t explain it to a six-year-old, you don’t understand it yourself.” Albert_Einstein_Head

The “it” is, well, whatever. Fill in the blank with anything: love, time, President Donald Trump.

Now I want you to substitute your brand for “it” and tell me if you can clearly and simply explain “it” to a six-year-old child. If you don’t have or know a six-year-old child, be careful how you answer. You will be using adult-speak in a heartbeat.

You’re being dismissive right now. I can tell. Do you truly know your brand? Can you explain it to a child?

Don’t laugh. Try it.

Uh-huh. As I suspected. It’s not so easy, is it?

This conundrum lies at the heart of why so many people who work with brands have difficulty being good brand communicators. How do I know this?

I’ve listened to experienced professionals at advertising agencies and Fortune 500 companies grapple with vocabulary to explain their brands.

Ask anyone responsible for devising a sentence called the “brand value proposition.” Ask anyone responsible for writing a brand “positioning statement.” Ask those responsible for writing clear, inspiring creative briefs.

Einstein was on to something with his insanely simple idea. Understanding how to do it would save boatloads of time, boatloads of money, boatloads of stress.

Consider this exercise, something I use in my college freshman composition class. Read the paragraph below, and tell me in two words, no more, what it is saying:

It is the opinion of the group assembled for the purpose of determining a probability of the likelihood of the meteorological-related results and outcome for the period encompassing the next working day that the odds of precipitation in the near-term are positive and reasonably expected.*

This causes my students migraines. First because they are not good close readers and second because their vocabularies are limited. Rather than looking up something they don’t know, they ignore it.

Herein lies another truth: If you ignore what you don’t understand, you are bound to perpetuate the misunderstanding.

This “exercise” paragraph is a tautology on steroids. A more technical term is verbal diarreha. It is an example of not knowing how to say what can be said in two words.

Can you explain your brand in two words? Two simple words that a child can understand?

If you can’t, you won’t pass Einstein’s simple test.

It’s probably costing you dearly.

Unknown

 

 

 

 

 

 

*The answer: Rain tomorrow.

 

What all good single-minded propositions have in common.

Many years ago, about a week into a new job I’d taken as creative director on a major international brand, I was reviewing a creative brief that had been approved by the client and was the inspiration for a batch of new creative work that would be presented a week hence.

The brief was a disappointment. The single-minded proposition was a disaster. It was, rather than singularly focused, a triple-minded Frankenstein’s monster. I remember sighing audibly, then asking if it were too late to re-visit the SMP. 04

“The client really likes this one,” I was told. “But if you insist, we can set up a conference call.”

It was a battle worth fighting, but the timing was definitely wrong. I acquiesced instead.

It was not the first time I had read such a beast on a creative brief, nor the last. It’s no accident that when I started teaching college freshman English, I encountered the same apprehension and confusion around writing the dreaded “thesis statement” in a college essay.

The “thesis” and the “SMP” are two sides of the same coin: They are the hardest sentence/phrase to write and the most important statements in their respective vehicles. When done well, they are a thing of beauty and the inspiration for the rest of the document. When done poorly, everything else suffers.

Two thoughts can guide you here, with some inspired clarity from writer, philosopher, and painter, Walter Russell:

Mediocrity is self-inflicted. Genius is self-bestowed.

There is no reason for the SMP to be such an intimidating exercise. Like everything else we do as communication professionals, the more we practice a thing, the better we become at it. A few minutes examining what the really good single-minded propositions have in common reveals much for us to absorb and from which we can benefit.

First, let’s set the stage with a solid definition of the single-minded proposition.

My favorite comes from Jon Steel’s book, “Truth, Lies and Advertising,” when he quotes John Hegarty, the legendary creative leader at BBH in London.

Hegarty suggests that you write the single-minded proposition on a piece of paper, above or below an image of the product. The result becomes, in his words, a “good” ad, but not necessarily a great ad. The SMP, says Hegarty, is the “first ad.” I would amplify that definition by saying it’s the first draft of the first ad. The creatives use it as inspiration for what, everyone hopes, becomes the polished, final draft ad.

In other words, the SMP is the Big Idea. The creatives unearth Big Executions of the Big Idea, what we call creative solutions.

Here is some thinking from other advertising practitioners:

A proposition is the one-liner – usually rounding off the brief – that encapsulates the strategic thought that we’re asking our creatives to dramatise and bring to life as ads. Indeed, it is usually this one-liner that creates the most debate from all parties involved, as reductive thinking is inherently controversial.

Matt Hunt, European Head of Planning, Grey Healthcare Group

I had to think for a while to remember the last time I saw a pure proposition; one free from bullshit and extras, that simply tells you where to start digging…too many account teams and clients no longer understand what a single-minded thought actually is.

The Denver Egoist

Now, let’s examine a few examples of single-minded propositions for real products from real creative briefs. (Notice that all of these SMPs come from dated briefs, some more than 20 years old. It is notoriously difficult to pry a brief from the proprietarily paranoid…er…protective ad agency.) single_minded_1337085

Toro (circa 2010):

Toro makes the tools. You make the yard.

H&R Block (circa 2008):

Now you can have an expert on your side.

Izuzu Rodeo SUV (circa 1994):

The normal rules don’t apply.

AARP (circa unknown):

AARP gives you the power to make up your own rules.

Lexus GS300 relaunch (circa 1998):

The GS300 is the kick-ass Lexus.

These single-minded propositions have much in common, and much from which we can learn. I’m sure you’ve drawn your own conclusions after having glanced at the list above, so compare your list with mine. I have deliberately not presented the creative because I want your focus on the SMP, not the resulting creative.

The point is, unless and until you take the time to really examine these sentences and understand why they work, the SMP will remain an intimidating mystery for the person who has to write it, and an eternal source of ire for the creatives who must work from it.

1. It is often just a phrase, but never longer than a sentence.

Obvious, yes. But when you’ve suffered the slings and arrows of outrageous paragraph long, throw-in-the-kitchen sink SMPs, I hope you’ll see that the good SMP is concise. Obvious, yes, but not so obvious when you have to face your client. gleamingkitchensink

2. Its focus is always singular; it’s about one thing only.

Obvious, yes…again. Its called “single-minded” for a reason. Research repeatedly shows that consumers respond more readily to one, neat idea.

3. The best SMP is modest because it doesn’t need to be any more.

You’re not competing with the creative department. You’re showing them a starting point. Think about Hegarty’s definition: The SMP doesn’t have to be great, just good. The SMPs I’ve shared with you here fit that definition.

4. The best ones are fearless.

Like a college essay’s thesis, the SMP must take a stand. Once you realize that an SMP is not for public consumption, you operate from a place of freedom. Remember your audience: The creative department. They depend on you, the writer, to kick-start their thinking. If you’re not brave, you make it harder for them to be.

The SMP is the first thing creatives look for on a brief. Their body language is impossible to miss after they’ve read one. Obvious…yes?

Don’t settle for the mediocre. Practice combined with confidence creates genius.

 

8 things that do not belong on a creative brief. Ever.

A question I hear often is, “How do I know if I’m including enough information for the creative team?”

It’s the wrong question.

I’d prefer it re-phrased: “How do I know if I’m including the right information for the creative team?”

The creative brief is an exercise in reduction, so judicious editing and conciseness are the order of the day. The list below is probably not definitive. I’m sure I’ll think of something else. But follow these guidelines to keep your brief focused.

1. Business, marketing or insider jargon

There is no place for any of it on a creative brief.

Yet I see phrases like, “Boost quarterly sales” and “Retail stores need to move XX units per day to meet target goals” and “Margins are slipping so….” and “OEM silo yields are off by 12%” and….yadda yadda yadda. I’m sure you’ve read worse.  jargon

It’s enough to make a creative cry. How does any of this relate to the task before the creative team? How does it provide any inspiration for creative ideas? They don’t.

Instead, these phrases, and so many others like them, indicate disengagement with writing an inspired creative brief. It’s laziness. Creative brief writers who collaborate with someone on the creative team would not make this mistake.

Remember who your audience is: The creative team. They know they have to increase sales. It’s your job to give them the relevant information to accomplish that goal.

2. Bullet points

Never. Never. Never. Bullet points are another sign of disengagement from writing an inspired creative brief. And laziness.

6a00d8341c761a53ef016762419ae1970b-piYet this is a sin repeated over and over. Especially in the box that describes the target audience. It’s usually a list of bullet points with silly acronyms (HHI is my favorite) that do nothing to inform or inspire the creative team.

Here is one of my favorite word pictures describing a cold sufferer for a creative brief for Vicks, a product made by Proctor and Gamble.

Who are we talking to?

Cold sufferers. You know how you feel when you’ve got a cold—that pathetic little inner-child of yours suddenly wakes up and, before you know it, you’re moaning & whining, you’ve gone all whiney & wimpy, all snivel, snot & slovenly; red raw puffy eyes, pale skin, lank hair—everything seems to be sagging! You feel like something from a Salvador Dali painting; you want to snuggle up in bed and dammit—you want your Mummy! But it’s not fair, is it, because no one else takes your suffering seriously—”Good God, pull yourself together, man, we’re not talking leprosy here! Don’t be such a baby, get on with it, stop moaning!”

Yes, your instincts tell you to be a child, but you’re not allowed to because you’ve “only” (only!) got a cold. And worse still—oh, the cruel irony!—even your attempts to retain your adulthood in the midst of your suffering betrays that sniveling little inner–child of yours: “oh don’t worry about me, I’ll be all right…”, “…no, no, please, I don’t want to sound like a martyr…”, “…well, I’m feeling a little better now, thank you…”

I’m sorry, but when you’ve got a cold you’re doomed to be a Child–Adult.

This is over-the-top fun and inspiring. And nary a bullet point in sight. Go to school on this approach. Show your creative team you brought your A game.

3. “See below”

I know it’s hard to believe, but I used to see this one. Often. Sometimes in the Single-Minded Proposition box of all places. Scary. Or in the Communication Objectives box. As if the brief writer did not understand the purpose of the box they were filling in. It was either a sign of complete laziness or simple incompetence. Or both.

Every box on a creative brief is there for a reason. It is not an easy thing to write an inspired brief, so give it the due diligence it deserves.

4. Anything cut and pasted from the previous creative brief

There might be exceptions, but I can’t think of any. Every project deserves fresh thinking, a fresh creative brief.

Put it another way: Would you accept from your creative team creative concepts that were cut and pasted from a previous campaign? No, I didn’t think so. Case closed. cut-n-paste_x

5. Anything cut and pasted from the client brief

This is almost worse than cutting and pasting from a previous agency-generated creative brief. The creative brief’s entire purpose is to “respond” to the client brief, to clarify the assignment and communicate to the client that the agency or creative department has understood its marching orders. (Yes, a creative brief has two audiences: the creatives, of course, but also the client, who should sign off on the brief.)

Were I the client and saw my own words on my agency’s creative brief, I’d be pissed. I’ve been on the client side, too. Fortunately, I never witnessed such laziness. Unfortunately, I saw it all too often in my role as a creative director.

6. A Single-Minded Proposition more than two typed lines

More laziness. The SMP should be short and to the point. It should read like a great headline on a billboard. It is the first ad as described by John Hegarty, which you’ve read here many times.

Be concise. Be sharp. Be witty if you can. And keep it short.

7. A third page

Somewhere in my book I wrote that I’d actually seen a well-written brief that was five pages in length. Not sure what I was thinking when I wrote that. I might have seen such a thing, but it’s a rarity.

The best briefs live up to their names. They are ideally one page, at most two pages. Again, remember that a brief is an act of strategic reduction. It is an exercise in lighting a fire beneath the creative team.

Do it in as few words as possible, but make those words heavy-weight champs: They float like a butterfly and sting like a bee.

8. The kitchen sink

This is an all-purpose “does not belong” catch-all. This is when you see the third, fourth and fifth page on a creative brief. It results when the brief writer is unsure and just decides to throw in everything to cover his behind.gleamingkitchensink

The rationale? “More is better than less.” It’s the opposite of “inspired creative brief” thinking.

Can you think of other things that should never show up on a creative brief? Send me your ideas.

Sharpen your brief writing with this two-step brain teaser

If you were a journalist, what would you read to become a better journalist? News stories. By people recognized as good journalists.tumblr_l3ffdyoMRR1qav9ywo1_1280

If you were a writer of fiction or poetry, what would you read to become a better novelist or poet? Other novelists and poets, of course.

So if you write creative briefs at your ad agency, marketing company or corporation, what do you read to become a better creative brief writer? Great creative briefs? Yes. If you can get your hands on them.

If you can’t, then what?

I recommend that you “read” great ads and do a simple, two-step brain teaser.

In the study of literature, it’s called “close reading.” The principle is the same in “reading” an advertisement. But to make this process work for you, I suggest that you take a passive approach. In fact, I urge you to be as passive as you can be.

Why? You’ll see.

This exercise works with any kind of ad, but I recommend you start with a television spot. Since I’ve asked you to take the passive approach, watching tv instantly puts you in the right frame of mind. Find your fave lounge chair or sofa or pillow, get comfy and wait.

When a tv spot airs, don’t move. Just let it happen. Exert as little energy as possible. Think “passive.”

You may have to practice this a few times to get it right. You’ll have to resist the urge to get up and hit the kitchen. Just veg while the :30 rolls past your brain.

So when you’ve got this form mastered, and you’re ready to engage the television spot as passively as you can, watch another commercial and answer two questions.

1. What is the point?

Try to figure this out by exerting as few neutrons of brain activity as possible. Don’t get all ad-fixated and ask, “What is the single-minded proposition?” get-to-the-point

React like a consumer: ironically uncaring, daring the advertiser to break your casual efforts at being disengaged.

You are an ad professional with insights into the process of connecting to a viewer. You have to actively turn off this knowledge. It won’t be easy. But in achieving the task, you will be opening a part of your brain to receiving information on an intuitive level. You are deconstructing the ad and looking for its most basic element: the key message.

But don’t work for it. The idea here is to test the spot’s effectiveness by allowing you brain to absorb the message below the conscious level.

That’s why it’s important to remain passive. If you can figure out what the point of the spot is, two things are apparent.

First, the spot communicated. Second, it was probably clear. If your answer forms a statement, you may have the draft of a single-minded proposition.

If your viewing results in no clear or obvious answer, chances are the spot did not communicate. Or was poorly executed. Or was just bad. Or all of the above.

2. Who are they talking to?

Don’t think, “Are they talking to me?” You’re taking a test here. If you can figure out the point of the spot, you should be able to figure out who might be interested. It could be you, but that’s not important.

If the spot were done well and you can figure out the point and who it is engaging, you’re lucky. It’s probably a good spot.

How does all this help you write a better brief?

First, it forces you to think differently. You’re receiving a piece of creative and your critiquing it at a point when it can’t be corrected or rejected, unlike how you might react if your creative team were presenting a rough to you for approval. It’s finished. You are a reviewer, not a consultant/team player.

Ask yourself: If I get the point and it’s clear, does it translate easily into a single-minded proposition? Do you like this SMP? Does the SMP lead you back to the spot you just viewed?

It’s one big circle. Everything has to fit.

You can do this simple, passive exercise with any television spot. Or radio spot. Just remember: You have to turn off your professional insights about advertising and be passive.

It works with a print ad, too, but you can’t be passive. Reading is not a passive activity. If you want a more difficult challenge, open up a glossy magazine and give it a go.

As a creative brief writer, you have to engage your brain everyday, even in a passive activity  I’ve suggested here.writers-block

Rookie or veteran, keep your brief writing muscles honed.

 

What brief writers can learn from the U.S. Coast Guard

I’m a huge fan of Kevin Costner. A few years ago he made a film called The Guardian, a fun action romp that also happens to pay tribute to Coast Guard rescue swimmers.

I was watching the film again recently when a scene about Coast Guard training put a thought in my head regarding the creative brief.

A senior Coast Guard officer was addressing younger Coast Guard officers about his experiences in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. What he said struck me as a solution to a problem faced by creative brief writers.

I know this sounds like a stretch, so bear with me.

In the movie, the actor playing the Coast Guard officer said that the training he received as a cadet was the exact same as every other cadet. So no matter where he was assigned and no matter with whom, he knew he could trust his fellow officers to do their jobs and do them well.

Everyone received the same training.

That’s an amazingly prescient idea. An idea that serves as the foundation of my workshop on writing inspired creative briefs. And for the book that followed.

What creative brief writers need most and don’t have is:

A common vocabulary

In other words, call it the creative brief writer’s version of what every U.S. Coast Guard cadet receives at Basic Training.

What do I mean by a common vocabulary?

Generally speaking, all briefs ask a series of questions designed to help the creative team understand the task they’ve been assigned. The hope is that the answers to those questions provides inspiration for outstanding creative.

Everyone knows what those questions are: Who is our target audience? What are some key insights about this product category? What do we want the target to think? Feel? Do?

But we’re all left to scramble when we start writing the answers. The answers, after all, are the heart of the brief. Not the questions.

If every brief writer had at his or her disposal the same sets of words and phrases to answer those questions, imagine how much easier the task would become.

Before you gasp in collective horror at the notion of a cookie-cutter, “one-size-fits-all” creative brief, stop and think for a moment.

What is a brief anyway? It’s an act of reduction. It’s an example of the art of arriving at the essence of a product’s unique point of desirability.

If ever there was a document that demands the principle of K.I.S.S. (keep it simple stupid), this is it.

Trouble is, far too many creative brief templates look like over-designed ads. They appear to want to show off either their trendiness or their verbosity.

I took a seminar on creative more than 20 years ago by the legendary creative director Stavros Cosmopulos. I still love to quote from one of the little booklets he handed out, which I’ve kept:

“Make your ideas fancy and your layouts rough.”

It’s a notion lost today with the use of computers that make every concept seem like a finished ad.

But it applies to the creative brief.

Forget about the template. Forget about the questions. Focus on the answers!

That might seem mind-numbingly obvious until you read a typical creative brief and get pummeled by insider’s jargon, inane generalizations and cliches. Everything except useful information.

So the idea of having a common vocabulary starts to look appealing.

Think of it this way: The set of words and phrases I’m talking about do not constitute the answers on your creative brief. They are the building blocks to an inspired document, the first step in the creative process.

What are some examples of this common vocabulary?

I’ll save that for a future post.

NOTE: The Inspired Creative Brief blog is taking the month of August to recharge its batteries. Have a great summer. See you again in September.

Two more thoughts on becoming a better brief writer

When in doubt about your skills, think fundamentals.

It’s like any new skill you learn—you need to practice the basics before you can advance.

In basketball, it’s doing lay ups. In ballet, it’s barre work. In writing creative briefs, it’s, well, writing creative briefs.

But you needn’t actually write briefs over and over like a school boy or girl.

Tip #1: Do them in your head.

Instead of brands, use everyday items you likely take for granted. You can write a brief in three simple steps. It’ll take you less then five minutes. Do this once a day, say during your commute to or from work, and you’ll discover your brain will add creative-brief-writing muscle before you know it.

For example: the object on which you’re sitting right now. A chair.

Step one: identify the features of your chair. As I type this, I’m sitting on a counter stool in my kitchen. My stainless steel and leather stool is comfortable. It’s attractive. It was inexpensive. That’s three features.

Next, identify what the benefit is for each feature.

Comfort: I gravitate toward this chair because it’s comfortable, so I like it. A lot.

Attractive: I feel proud of my excellent taste in design.

Inexpensive: my aren’t I the clever chap for finding something so wonderful and at such a bargain.

Three features, three benefits.

Oh, and guess what. We’ve already found the hardest thing to write on a creative brief: the single-minded proposition. It’s always one of the benefits. Always. The question is, which one?

For your practice exercise, it doesn’t matter. Write (in your head) an SMP for each benefit. It’s good practice. (If you read my post last month, you know I sometimes provide my creative teams with multiple SMPs. When you do as much creative testing as I do, you often need different creative approaches.)

For comfort, try this:

You’d give this chair a standing ovation except you’re too comfortable to get up.

For design, try this:

You keep a photograph of this chair in your wallet and show it off any chance you can.

For inexpensive, try this:

If they gave out Nobel Prizes for finding a great chair for a ridiculous price, you’d get one.

Notice that each SMP could be a headline. They don’t have to be good headlines, however. You’re the pioneer headline writer on the assignment. Your job is to write the first one to inspire something better from your creative team.

Now, you try it. Pick everyday objects—a pencil, your bedroom slippers,  your cereal bowl, a coffee mug, your reading lamp. Keep them simple and unremarkable. It takes the pressure off.

Remember: three features, three benefits, three SMPs.

When that gets easy, do your pet. Your best friend. Your mother. Your mother in law…well, that’s for real die hards.

The point is, practice.

Tip #2: Never write a creative brief all by yourself.

Never. Never. Never.

Always collaborate: With another brief writer. With someone on the creative team who’ll be working from your brief. With your boss. It doesn’t matter.

Two heads are always better than one.

Remember: creatives always work in teams. They produce better work that way.

Why would it be any different in writing a creative brief?

Creative briefs for beginners

by Ramona Liberoff, EVP Marketing, Strategy and Planning, Movirtu Limited, London

Howard’s book is a great tool for all of those with the weighty responsibility of writing a creative brief to fulfill their duties responsibly.

But in some environments, like tech companies, or start-ups, or for those not used to working with creatives or agencies, the need for a creative brief isn’t established in the first place. (In case you’re wondering, my environment is all three.)

In fact, there’s very little experience or judgment available to help people understand what good communication looks like at all.

So you have to go through a pre-brief enlightenment process with your stakeholders. Below I share some best practices with readers in case you are in the same situation, or in case you just need to remind people why they go through the hard work of writing a creative brief.

Q: Why do I have to brief? Why can’t I just “tell” someone what to write and have them do better words?

A: Two main reasons. If you don’t give some background to the brief, particularly around the audience, you won’t help the writer get into the audience’s shoes and write something that will be useful to them. Second, there are many different ways to tell a story. Dictating your message and having it tidied up is the equivalent of trimming your astroturf rather than planting a lawn. The latter is harder, but it’s clearly real.

Q: Why do I have to writing anything down? I don’t have time for this!

A: The act of writing something down forces you to think through what you want to accomplish. Otherwise you are tempted to think that a creative communication can solve too many different issues, some of which may not be connected to the communication at all. Or you risk spending much more time later down the line in endless revision cycles when the work just isn’t “right.” How can it be, without a clear road map?

Q: OK, I accept that I have to do some kind of brief. What will my creatives find most useful?

A: Apart from read Howard’s book, the things that stand out for me as most useful are brevity and verbs. Too often the brief is full of adjectives such as “Get to the point,” and “Speak in a tone which is authoritative and innovative” and “Not fuzzy.”

What may be fuzzy to me may not be fuzzy to you. Trying to follow instructions like those above is like chasing an endless piece of string, and pointless iteration is not a good thing for creative work. It can end up exhausting your creative energy to no good purpose.

Garbage in, garbage out is always a good rule of thumb!

Keeping things simple

by Jean-Francois Fournon, Creative Director, Shem’s Publicite, Casablanca, Morocco

I like American people.

They don’t intellectualize things. They keep it simple. And advertising has to be simple if we want consumers to remember our messages. So that may be one of the reasons why Americans are very good at advertising.

Another reason I like Americans is their habit of explaining how to succeed, how to speak in public, earn more money, be successful in life and write a good brief.

Here we are. Very simple rules, full of examples, step-by-step explanations. Nobody gets lost.

I spent most of my creative career criticizing briefs, making planners feel uncomfortable until they said they would go back to the drawing board.

In fact I was a lazy writer and like really lazy people I tried to gain time. Nowadays I know that it’s not because you refuse a brief that the date of presentation will change so you end up getting stuck with less time to work on a brief. So it’s better to fix things during the briefing session if possible.

Anyway this rebellious attitude needed some convincing arguments to oppose the planners. And that’s how I started digging into the inner logic of briefs. And I discovered that even if there are nine or 10 sections in a brief, only three really mattered to me.

First one: what do we want to achieve with this brief?

This can really be inspiring and you may find unusual solutions when the rest of the brief guides you toward more classical ways, a nice :30 TV spot or a print campaign. At the early stage and this one is the earliest, everything is possible and I like this feeling!

Second area that I find inspiring: the consumer.

Most of the time our target is summarized by abstract figures. Here in Morocco, people are defined by their CSP (socio-professional categories according to their income). So you are allowed to do smart campaigns when targeting CSP+ and down to earth ones when targeting CSP-.

Which implies that the more money one makes, the smarter the person is.

Come on, this doesn’t reflect life. People with less money need to be smarter and ingenious to cope with life. They need to be imaginative.

So reading a brief I cannot really understand who I’m talking to unless I get an in-depth description of these people. And the best way I’ve found is to personalize the target, to give him/her a first name and describe his/her life as precisely as possible. Even if it doesn’t have any obvious connection with the product we are advertising. At least it enables me to put my feet in someone else’s shoes. And that’s a lot.

Last key point: the single-minded proposition.

I know that I can sometimes find a good idea including two benefits but I keep these exceptions for myself and prefer to officially shout that without a unique proposition the idea cannot be simple, pure and great. This short sentence (because the SMP needs to be concise) can be inspiring to the point that on several occasions I used the line without modifying it.

On an RSF (Reporters without Borders) campaign I did in 2002 with Saatchi Paris, I used “Don’t wait to be deprived of news to stand up and fight for it” as a baseline (tagline). It was written by a great young planner and was so powerful that I didn’t find anything better. The line was actually so good that when my art director and I got stuck for ideas, we came back to the meaning of it to develop new ones. And it remained the tagline of RSF for the next six years.

This is my learning after some 20 years spent reading briefs, trying to crack them and occasionally succeeding. While getting older, I’ve noticed that a perfect command of the brief gives you an advantage as a creative (less time spent complaining which is highly unproductive) and forces the planners to push the boundaries and be creative  themselves. And when everybody is creative in what he/she does, the whole agency wins.

“One team, one dream” as the Saatchi brothers used to say.