Sunday, February 23, 2014

1 Weird Trick That Can Help You Crack Any Brief

A good Creative can crack any brief... as long as that brief is clear, and simple.

Hence, the real problem most Creatives face is not coming up with great ideas, but getting to a brief we can work with.

I'm now going to let you in on this one weird trick, that can get you to a clear and simple brief in around 30 seconds or less.

But in the spirit of those '1 weird trick' videos for losing belly fat or curing diabetes, I will first give some rambling examples that demonstrate why this tip is necessary.

The first one happened when I was working on a major car launch, a few years ago. This was a big project, and several Creatives had been gathered from several countries to work on it. In Amsterdam. The strategist did a supremely thorough 2-hour briefing, taking us through every aspect of the car, and how it was made. The brief was many pages long, and full of densely-written text. In fact the only part that was blank, was the proposition box. When I asked the guy why, he explained that he didn't want to "limit our thinking." Result: 10 days of flailing around.

The second example comes from when I was working on a brief for scratchcards. In the 'single-minded proposition' box appeared the words: "The fun way to win lots of money in an instant." That's right - fun, big wins, and instant. A rare 'triple'. Result: flailing around.

Okay, here's the weird trick. If the brief isn't clear, and you suspect that it will just lead to a lot of flailing around, simply ask: "What do you want us to dramatise?"

The answer to this question should tell you the way to go.

After all, every ad is some kind of dramatisation. (Tell me one that isn't, and I'll revise my theory).

It can dramatise the care with which the product is made:

It can dramatise the glorious silliness of the internet:

And N.B. it's the same deal with a social, online, or utility-based idea - you're always dramatising something. This app dramatises McCormick's expertise in the world of flavour:

So try it. If you're not crystal clear on what you're being asked to do, simply ask "What do you want us to dramatise?" It's a weird tip that really works.


Unknown said...

Spot on.

Roy said...

Absolutely agree.

gorgan said...

"The real problem most Creatives face is not coming up with great ideas, but getting to a brief we can work with."

No truer words have ever been spoken.

Anonymous said...

Love the Woodstock ad.

Anonymous said...

I'd like you to dramatise the fun when you win instantly with a scratch card.

I'm one of many useless planners said...

One of your best blog posts Simon. Weeks in the planning dept and often nothing to show for it, then the creative get judged on a few days work from a shite brief - often by the f'in planners too!

Scamp said...

Thank you for your kind words, useless planner. To be honest, I wasn't intending the post as an attack purely on planners. CD's must also take blame for unclear briefs, since it is they who sign them off. And clients are often quite good at cramming too much stuff in there as well...

Anonymous said...

When totally confused, I have sometimes asked a suit or planner, 'If you were writing this ad, what would it be?' The ad is probably not going to be great, but it may help clarify what they are trying to say in the brief. Same process really.

Jason Lonsdale said...

Actually, Scamp, I think a massive problem is the whole notion of a "proposition"... when you're given one, your task is merely to rewrite it in a better way. The planner has done the old Ogilvy thing of writing the prop as a creative stepping off point, to be exceeded by the creative genius of the team.

Which was fine when we lived in the message-centric age of SMPs and meaningful product differentiation. But those days are long gone, and unfortunately a proposition, with its laser focus on messaging, only ever leads to "an ad".

Which is perilous.

I think you're right with "dramatise"... although I'd go even further. A great brief should challenge creative to solve a problem, and arm him or her with enough interestingness to do so (often, these bits of interestingness will be called "insights" or features, or benefits). So I'd include about other "action verbs"... Prove. Show. Convince etc (you kinda end up with a sharp version of the old Get/To/By brief, which is no bad thing in my book).

That is quite different from a crap planner end-line.

Scamp said...

Jason - yeah but no but yeah.

I get that propositions are like, soooo 20th century.

But honestly, is it really any different to write: "Convince ladies that Mrs Miggins's corsets are the most flexible corsets" instead of "Proposition: flexible"?

Just because it's a proposition, doesn't mean it couldn't lead to a new kind of idea, like stretching one of Mrs Miggins's corsets from Big Ben to the Eiffel Tower, and filming it...

PPPA said...

Hi Scamp, I didn't realise you're blogging again till I saw someone shared an article of yours, great news for creatives, we miss you... Yeah!

Sell! Sell! said...

I like the corset ad, Scampy. Can we get Ridders to shoot it?

Jim Powell said...

Tool/ tricks for thinking are always useful.

You can't do carpentry with your bare hands, you need tools.

You can't just think with your brain you need tools.

Anonymous said...

I believe these days, more than ever, you need a laser precise brief. Especially if there's only a week to solve it. Otherwise more faffing, which is more perilous than a preposition - you're wasting everyone's time.

There's nothing wrong with a preposition. Sometimes a brand doesn't have a problem to solve, so the planners (and the CD) need to figure out something to say.

Anonymous said...

I agree with old mate Sell! Sell! the corset ad is pretty good Scamp.