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Six Tricks for Creating Brand-Building, Sales-Ripping Creative Briefs

by Steve McNamara  |  
July 24, 2007

Note: In this follow-up to a MarketingProfs Classic—and one of our most popular articles ever—Steve McNamara shares his experiences at some of the world's leading ad agencies.

Want to make your ads more effective? Project a stronger brand personality? A well-written creative brief is the road map that will lead the way. Here's how.

1. Write it down, right from the start

When I was a new Creative Director at Capital One, a marketing manager called me and said, "Can't I just give you a brain-dump over the phone? I don't have time to write a brief."

Sound familiar? If so, you should explain that a written brief will save time in the long run and get the project off to a focused start.

Long experience has taught me that starting creative work based on verbal input alone will burn kilos of cash. Typically, you get ideas that don't reflect the brand personality, don't talk to the target audience, and neglect important details.

2. Use the right brief for the project

I learned this simple lesson at JWT, where we had just one creative brief—which was great for, say, a print campaign for regular clients, such as Citibank. But that one brief was not so great for quick-turn revisions on 10 banner ads, a 15-minute video, or a 20-page Web site.

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Steve McNamara is a freelance ad guy and the publisher of He has been a creative director and copywriter at JWT, BBDO, and, on the client side, at Capital One. Reach him at

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