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How to Write a Strong and Clear Agency Brief

Mardi 8 Décembre 2020

The best briefs are insightful, provocative, and… brief…
I have been a marketing and advertising professional for close to 30 years. Between branding, marketing, advertising, direct marketing, and media, I have written more briefs than I can count.
A brief is a document that is provided to an agency partner that you want to hire for a particular project or campaign. This is usually the step after you have determined an overall go-to-market strategy for your brand.


Unfortunately, I have seen many marketers provide very poorly written briefs to their agencies. For example, I have seen some briefs that are missing concrete business or marketing objectives, lack audience insights, or are too focused on the features of their product/service rather than the benefits to their customers. Worst of all, I have seen marketers provide no briefs at all.
 
The best briefs are insightful, provocative, and brief. When done right, all parties are clear on the deliverables, and it reduces the chance of misinterpretation and delayed timelines. In essence, a brief serves as a contract between the brand and the agency.
There are some variations between briefs but the key elements include the following:

Background

What is the context for this particular project or campaign? Are you launching a new product? Do you see an opportunity for a new audience? Are there macro trends that you are trying to capitalize on? This helps the agency understand the reason for the campaign.

Business Objectives

What realistic business objectives are you trying to achieve? Are you trying to become #1 in the category, gain x% market share, or achieve a certain number of subscribers? Remember these objectives should be SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound).

Marketing Objectives

What marketing objectives are you aiming to achieve? These should ideally map back to the business objective. Are you shifting x% of marketing funds on awareness activities? Do you want to lower your cost per acquisition by $10? Like the business objectives, the objectives need to be SMART.

Advertising Objectives

These are subordinate to the marketing objective and might include goals such as increasing awareness, acquiring or retaining customers, generating demand, or increasing loyalty and advocacy.

Target Audience

In this section, you should go beyond the demographic profile of your audience (e.g. male/female, age, education, income level, location) and include both psychographic traits (e.g. attitudes, values, personality, interests) as well as behavioral insights (e.g. how they think, feel, and act). Giving your agency a clear understanding of your target will help them in crafting a focused, relevant campaign that will engage your customers.

Key Message

What is the one thing you want the campaign to communicate to your audience? If you were to imagine it as a headline in a top publication, what would it say? This is one of the hardest parts of the brief because we have a tendency to cram as many things as possible in the key message. However, the more focused and concise the message, the more memorable it will be.

Product or Service Benefits

This section is all about providing proof points for your key message. The benefits should be supported by the features of your products (i.e. techs and specs). Quite often, I see these two things reversed. In general, your customer doesn’t care about the features as much as how your product or service improves their lives.

Call-to-Action

Once your customer has seen your campaign, what do you want them to do next? It’s good to be intentional about the action you want the customer to take.
 

Key Brand Elements

In this part of the brief, you’ll want to include the brand guidelines for the agency (i.e. logos, colors, fonts, style of imagery or illustrations, tone-and-manner) as well as any mandatories (e.g. include partner logo, size requirements). It’s best not to keep the agency guessing here.

Budgets

With budgets, it’s always good to provide a realistic budget so that your agency doesn’t brainstorm a million-dollar campaign idea when you can only afford a fraction of that. It’s also a good idea to breakdown the budget into creative, production, and media so the agency knows how much they actually have to spend.

Timing

Include an approximate timing for the launch. I understand that we are always under tight timelines but we should still be fair. I have seen teams brief an agency and expect something in return in two days. It’s difficult for anyone to thoroughly research and create an entire campaign in a short period of time.

Sample Template for you to download

Here is a sample template that you can leverage. There are many different templates out there (Word, PPT, even video). Use the one that you prefer and tailor it to your specific industry/service/product. Just remember to cover all the key points.

Writing a brief is as much an art as it is a science, but the key is that the document forces you to be clear and concise.
Mathieu Janin


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