Howard Marguiles on the Creative Brief

Recently, I came across an entry on the Ad Age Small Agency Diary from Howard Marguiles, associate creative director/copy at Palio in Saratoga Springs, NY.

This particular piece was titled “What Are You Packing Into Your (Creative) Briefs?” and was all about — you guessed it — the value of a good creative brief.

An excerpt from Marguiles’ piece:

DiNoto has it exactly right. When writing a brief, you must fully commit to an idea:

  • This is the time to fall on the sword. Commit!
  • Refrain from peppering the brief with ideas; a little bit of this or that. Layering ideas in a painterly way is dishonest. Commit!
  • Say one thing, and say it clearly.
  • Don’t try to outshine the creatives, don’t let your cleverness show; keep the language simple and clear.
  • Anything resembling a tagline should be deleted.
  • Support, amplify, clarify, stay on message.

If you have doubts that you have chosen the right path, find another. The universe has an infinite supply of paths; choose one.

It is a faulty assumption to believe that a killer ad campaign was the product of an unusually imaginative creative brief. Quite the opposite is more likely to be true. It is also not inevitable that any given campaign would result from any given brief. This is a deterministic function of the zeitgeist, the talents and disposition of the creative teams, the openness and receptivity of the target audience, and the ability of an agency and client to celebrate the power of a great idea and run with it.

The Goodby, Silverstein & Partners award-winning “Got Milk?” campaign was based on a powerful, single-minded insight: People wait until they’re out of milk to realize that they need to buy more. The campaign’s scenarios were highly entertaining, but the core message was: “Milk enhances the enjoyment of many foods. Don’t wait until you’re out. Buy some today.” In Goodby’s hands, advertising history was made. At another shop, the spots might’ve sounded like infomercials for the ShamWow!

A truly motivating insight is a secret bit of knowledge that you have about your target audience that you can exploit to make them do your bidding. Don’t squander it.

Regardless of whether you’re on the account side, the creative side, somewhere in-between, or none of the above, take the time to read the entire piece.

Then go practice, practice, practice.

You (and your clients) will be glad you did.