(Edited and updated Ideasicle blog post from 1-4-11)
The creative brief is a sacred document that has one singular goal, and it’s NOT to inform, though that is a secondary result. The creative brief’s singular goal is to inspire your creative team to come up with great ideas. That's it.
Think of the things in your life that have inspired you. A sermon, or a lecture from a certain professor, or a particularly fantastic musical performance. What do these things have in common? They share in what they lack: excessive information. Every instance of true, memorable inspiration is the result of a person, or group, making important decisions as to what NOT to include, thereby leaving what's most inspiring.
Everything is never inspiring. But something might be.
The most inspiring moments in history were not drawn-out events. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech lasted only 16 minutes, but was one of the most important and memorable speeches of the last 100 years.
Or Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address.” It took him 2 minutes and 22 seconds to deliver that genius collection of carefully crafted words. About the same amount of time as one of the most famous and most covered songs of all time, “Yesterday,” by the Beatles, which times out at a mere 2:06.
A great creative brief requires a heavy dose of respect for the following quote from the philosopher Blaise Pascal: "I have made this letter longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter." - "Lettres provinciales," letter 16, 1657.
Mr. Pascal, you nailed it, my friend. Inspiration takes time.
The Ideasicle way.
Here are a few tips that we deploy at Ideasicle to inspire our teams of Experts with a creative brief:
1. The brief is a starting point, not the answer.
Who wants to work on an assignment where you think you’ve already got the answer in the brief? That’s not inspiring.
2. Zero redundancy.
The creative brief should be one solid story with zero redundancy across any of the sections. Means you’ll have to make some choices on where THAT important point best resides, but only put it there.
3. One page and no more.
I don’t care how complex an assignment is, if you can’t get it down to one page then you’re not finished. Remember Pascal? A creative person will have a much better mental attitude if the brief is digestible. One page, inspiring. Two pages or more, not inspiring.
4. Just enough support to be dangerous.
Yes, you will need support points (or “reasons to believe”) for the single claim made in the brief. But think them through and only put the three best ones in the brief. You can communicate the other points later if you must, once the team has been inspired with their big idea.
5. Consciously connect the sections of the brief.
Link the support points directly to the single claim. Make sure the single claim is a natural conclusion from what precedes it in the brief. Set up the need the product satisfies in the audience section. And so one. Disconnects in a brief are confusing, not inspiring.
The creative brief is not designed to inspire clients (though it may), it’s designed to inspire creative people. Creative people don’t talk marketing-speak, and the good ones treat marketing-speak like it's their kryptonite. Speak in the creative’s language, not the client’s, and you’re more likely to inspire.
Think of it this way. Information is the clay. Inspiration is what you do with it. Now go out there and inspire your creative team with a killer, one-page, thoughtful creative brief.