What makes a creative brief writer?


Two thousand fifteen marks my 30th year in the advertising business. I put in more than a quarter century at ad agencies and corporations. The last few years I’ve devoted to writing, teaching and waxing philosophic about the creative brief, clear writing and critical thinking.

My job as a creative was to work from a creative brief. I’ve written more than my share of creative briefs, but only because I had to, and because I was the de facto expert. My training in writing briefs comes from the U of Getitdone. That and having read a lot of briefs, and I mean a lot. I’d estimate, conservatively, that I’ve read over 2,000 creative briefs in my career.

So I may not qualify as an “trained” account planner with the necessary background in statistics and analytics, but I think I can hold my own with the best of the best.

Which leads me to two questions: What does it take to be a writer of an inspired creative brief? Who is most likely to possess the necessary qualities?

(By the way, Jon Steel has a wonderful video on YouTube about what he values in a good account planner. I tip my hat to him for inspiring this post.)

My list is short: Courage, curiosity, optimism.

Courage. As I have written elsewhere, the writer of a creative brief has the enormous task of writing the first adCourage_is_contagious

John Hegarty gets credit for this thought. He also says that the first ad doesn’t have to be a great ad, but it must be good enough to spark a conversation. So courage is a requirement because the creative brief writer must take a leap of faith. She must possess the steadfastness of her convictions. It’s an enviable quality. It’s an absolute must.

Curiosity. You can be short of life experience but make up for it by owning an insatiable wonder about the world around you. As a creative for my entire career, I always thought of the ad business of one of the few careers that demands that you be a Renaissance Man/Woman. You must have broad interests and the capacity to learn about new things almost daily. Curiosity fuels this capacity. Your curiosity as a brief writer also fuels the curiosity of the creative team.cat-art-print-17-x-17-unframed--[2]-33278-p

Optimism. This may seem obvious. I don’t think you can succeed in the ad business as anything but an optimist. It is especially true of the creative brief writer. You must have absolute belief in the power of words to shape an outcome. You must believe in yourself to shape those words. You must believe in the process that results in an inspired creative brief: The acquisition of insights about human nature that, when reduced to their most clarifying elements, inspire big thinking. You must believe this.6e520b24c7f2022e3e60feb9b59d15aa

So who possess these attributes? Merlin. Gandhi. Dumbledore.

If you are a risk taker, love a challenge, do not accept anything less than excellence, I’d say you are likely to succeed.

If you view each creative brief writing assignment as an opportunity to push the creative team to break new ground, you have a skill others will covet.

Live long and inspire, with apologies to Mr. Spock.