Sunday, March 30, 2014

Would We Like Briefs More If They Were Upside Down?

Briefs are primarily written by Planners - aided and abetted by the Client and Account Handlers.

By definition, they only hand over the brief when they're happy with it.

And yet the receivers of the brief - the Creatives - rarely seem happy with it. In fact they're notoriously silent and tense in the briefing. Could that be because the briefing document, in the eyes of the Creatives, is actually upside down?

This was the conclusion my friend Dustin reached, when he went to a talk about innovation funding. (Incidentally you should be reading Dustin's blog, it's really very good.) 

One of the speakers put up a slide, illustrating the different approach of how academics usually digest information, compared to how investors absorb it.

And Dustin's observation was that there's a strong parallel between how Creatives absorb information, and the other departments.

When Creatives hear about a brief, the first thing we want to know is the proposition. And when we hear about an ad, the first thing we want to know is the idea.

Yet most (but not all) Planners, Account Handlers, and Clients are the other way around. They first want to hear the background to a brief - the pieces of evidence that lead up to a proposition. And when it comes to ideas, they want to be 'taken on the journey' - start with the thinking that went into it, and end with the idea.

A clue to this conundrum may lie in an aspect of Myers-Briggs.

For anyone who doesn't know, Myers-Briggs is a method of defining personality, by assigning each individual a four-letter 'character type', e.g. ISFP, or ENTJ. Each letter reflects where the person  sits along one of four different axes, for example either 'E' for Extrovert or 'I' for Introverted.

The distinction that's relevant here is between 'S' - Sensing, and 'N' - Intuitive. (I think they picked 'N' for intuitive because 'I' was already taken for Introverted).

'Sensing' people gather evidence before reaching a conclusion. Whereas Intuitive people come up with an answer first, and then look for evidence to back it up.

When I did the Myers-Briggs, as part of some Creative Director training course a few years ago, the results were quite interesting. Some of the CD's were Extrovert, some Introvert. Some were 'T' (Thinking) and some were 'F' (Feeling). But every single one of us was 'N' (Intuitive).

The tester wasn't surprised at all. She mentioned that she had now run the Myers-Briggs on 500 Creatives, and 499 of them were Intuitive rather than Sensing.

The conclusion for Creatives is that we are probably best served by presenting our ideas in what feels (to us) like the wrong way round. 

And here's a thought for people writing briefs:  Your brief is a document intended for an end user. To the end user, it looks like it's upside down.

Any chance of flipping it over?


Chizzy said...

interesting.... i think you make a good point. 9 out of 10 times i see teams going straight to 'the box' and sometimes even passing on judgement on the quality of the brief (how creatively springy it is) before even reading about the well-defined problem, the insight or, what can be, really interesting supporting truths. I'm going to think some more about this as I reckon you're on to something. thanks, mate!

Anonymous said...

client briefing --> account director--> strategic planner--> strategic recommendation--> client--> client feedbacks--> account director--> strategic planner--> revised strategic recommendation--> client--> client OK --> creative briefing doc--> creatives

3 day later is the client presentation

An old fashioned non flexible way of working brought-in by speadsheets fillers, so they can tick their little box in their task manager.

It's a must for a CD to work with planners so the creative teams start on top of a hill and not in a pit. Cooperation between the 2 of them could lead to an uncluttered brief rich on insights and a more pertinent proposition.

When it comes to delivering the brief to creatives, flexibility is key . It's a bore to have the same format over and over.

A good brief should bring the creative to a point excitement like a good speech do.

Simon said...

Interesting. We've just rejigged our brief to do exactly what you mention - put core thought and personality stuff at the very top. It's partly to reflect the natural tendencies to jump ahead, but also because by the time the brief is written, everyone working on the project including the creative team, should be on board with the thinking. This removes the need for a big reveal.

Anonymous said...

Broadly agree, but when Creatives present ideas to clients they also do it in what you term the "planner" method. They present a whole lot of reasoning leading up to - ta da - the idea.

Anonymous said...

Nice one. Like it

Anonymous said...

isn't a good brief a decent chat? who needs paper.

Hamish Spencer said...

Great article.

Scamp said...

12.19 - I agree with you. Smart creatives present that way, because they've learned that's how clients prefer to receive it. And yet no one's figured out that when presenting to creatives, we prefer it the other way...

Thomas said...

That also assumes that the proposition is the most important part of a briefing. When it could be the role of comms, or the problem to be solved, or the why would people give a shit.

I agree with what Anonymous said: A good brief should bring the creative to a point excitement like a good speech do.

Or they should be aware of the thinking before seeing the proposition, then there doesn't need to be a surprise.

Wondering if what you propose would lead to people jumping straight into a discussion of the proposition and how it might or might not be phrased perfectly.

Scamp said...

On whether the creatives are aware of the project, that depends on size of agency. In a big shop, the creatives may be completely unaware of the project before it hits their desk.

And I wouldn't worry about phrasing. It's the thinking that should be interesting, not the phrasing. Actually, even interestingness is not as important as clarity...

Cleaver said...

I wonder if it doesn't have as much to do with the role you play in the process as the personality type?

If you're a planner, you want everyone to see exactly how clever you've been to come up with your brilliant proposition. If you don't explain exactly the process you went through to get there, they might miss it.

Whereas if you're a creative, you only really care about the bit you're going to use - the proposition.

And when we present our work back, the same thing applies. Especially if there's not much content in the concept you're presenting, people might miss all the hard work underpinning your seven word headline.

Scamp said...

Ouch. But yeah.