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How to Write an Award-Winning, Sales-Kicking Creative Brief

by Steve McNamara  |  
March 5, 2002

A creative brief is like a road map. A good brief leads to imaginative and persuasive ads. And gets you there quickly.

A bad brief starts you off in the wrong direction. So you have to stop, figure out where the heck you're going, and start again. Or worse, you follow that brief to a town called Bad Adsville.

Most briefs are simply a list of questions. The people writing the brief answer the questions based information about the ad or the campaign to be constructed.

What you want is the flexibility to select questions appropriate to any type of ad or campaign. Direct response or brand building. Integrated campaigns that blend the two. Or questions for highly detailed new business pitches or new product launches. Even quick turn-around newspaper ads.

Therefore, it's wise to avoid writ-in-stone printed briefs precisely because they limit your flexibility. Better to place the brief -- the list of questions -- on your computer or the office network. Then, for each new project, select appropriate questions.

At we recommend you have access to three briefs: A Quick Brief for simple, fast turn-around projects. A Basic Brief for the bulk of ads or campaigns you produce. And an Advanced Brief for new product launches or new business pitches.

And if you're thinking, "We don't have time to write a brief." Remember that working from verbal input, without a written brief, is how non-professionals waste time and money.

Here's a typical Basic Brief.

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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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