The art of writing a brief

We look into why briefs are so imperative to get right, the difference between advertising and design briefs, and whether visuals have any place in them

The always-on communication between agencies and their clients would suggest that briefs have a less important role than they once did, because who needs a few paragraphs buried in a word document when you have WhatsApp? Yet Laurent Simon, chief creative officer at marketing agency VMLY&R, believes they’re more essential than ever.

“Everything is faster. We’re poorer in time, poorer in terms of budgets, there’s more channels you can use to connect with people. It’s not just a radio ad or a TV ad or whatever,” he says. “So the more clarity and the more consistency you can have, the better, because whilst the creative process is not an exact science, there are things that you just can’t do without. You need to know where you’re starting from and where you’re going.”

The brief doesn’t just provide a “north star” for creatives, Simon explains. “I’d say it’s probably one of the most important documents you can find at an agency. The reason being, a brief is, I guess, one of the closest manifestations of a contract between agencies and clients.” Without the luxury of time, budgets, and a consolidated audience that he experienced when he first started out, he finds that “you do need that cornerstone in black and white telling you precisely what the ask is and what the objective is and what you’re trying to achieve”. Even in his time as ECD at BBC Creative, where he was theoretically much closer to the ‘client’, the brief was essential for keeping everyone on track.

Image of a person sat on a sofa knitting with two people young people stood behind wearing matching knitted patterned jumpers
Top: Shutterstock/VectorMine; Above: Eat Your Way To A Better Planet campaign for Alpro by VMLY&R