Monday, April 06, 2015

How Long Does It Really Take To Crack A Brief?

We need to talk about time.

Self-evidently, we are being given less and less time to crack briefs nowadays.

And I doubt that's going to change.

So we're going to need to work quicker, smarter... all of that.

But also, I think we need to do a better job of explaining to everyone else the role that time plays in the creative process.

Because so far, we haven't explained it very well at all.

Most Planners, Suits and Clients still think that engaging a Creative is much like engaging a builder. They describe the job, and then ask how long we think it will take.

For the builder, that's easy. If he can place 1000 bricks a day, then he knows that a 5000-brick wall will take 5 days.

But the creative process doesn't work that way.

A creative team might have the job licked in a day. (Something the builder could never achieve).

On the other hand, they might work on it for a week, and not crack it. (Let's define 'crack it' as 'come up with a solution that the CD approves'). In other words they might do a whole week and get all their work rejected, ending up with absolutely nothing. Which would be the equivalent of the builder working for a week and failing to have a single brick in place at the end of it.

Surely this illustrates that to even ask us the question 'how long do you think will this take' is to misunderstand the nature of what we do.

But they're not going to stop asking. So a better answer to give them might be something that's phrased more in terms of 'confidence interval'.

I estimate that a typical team, given a typical brief, has a 20% chance of cracking it in a day. (Obviously a more senior or better-than-average team would have a higher chance, and a more difficult brief means a lower chance).

After three days, I reckon the chance of cracking the brief goes up to about 50%, and after five days (i.e. one week), I'd say the team has a two-in-three chance of cracking it.

I estimate that when given two weeks on a brief, the typical team has a 90% chance of cracking it. But from then on, the crack rate rises very slowly. If they haven't cracked it after two weeks, they probably never will.

So what do you think? Does this tally with your experience?Am I being too generous? Too stingy? Oh, and do you have any tips for working quicker and/or smarter...


GP said...

I think the important thing to convey is not only the amount of time from brief landing to cracking it (can we start calling this "The Crack"?), but how that time is used within the creative process.

As a side note, because I'm a pedantic planner, your chart doesn't describe confidence intervals, but rather what we call the Law of Diminishing Returns. It's a logarithmic function. Moving right along...

Some jobs might take two weeks, but that isn't two full weeks of working. It's more likely 2 or 3 days of working in intervals over that time with the remainder being in-between, subconscious time. Not goofing off and playing ping pong, just thinking. Waiting. The time it takes for the work to sink in and percolate, the time for the lizard brain to solve some problems.

The difficult thing is we don't know how to tell that story, to tell a client "It's three days work, but you'll get it in three weeks time." Perhaps we find it hard because the people who require the justification and those doing the justifying have neither want nor need to understand the creative process. Just margin.

Conor said...

And of course the creative team won't just be working on one single brief over that time period, right? So in reality, that two weeks might well equate to just a couple of days thinking time.

Birzo said...

The number one factor is the actual quality of the brief. Does the brief have ideas in it? Quality briefs lead to Quality Ideas to develop, and in a timely fashion ( 2 weeks min ). Poor briefs waste everyone's time and resources.

Anonymous said...

If you have 2 weeks to crack the brief, you crack it in 2 weeks. If you have an hour to crack the brief you crack it in an hour.
What the ad you end up with is like, is another kettle of fish and chips entirely.