Mastering the Creative Brief

aquentlogo75x75Editor’s note: This article was originally published by Aquent, AIGA’s official sponsor for professional development.

You’re juggling dozens of priorities and under the gun to get a new marketing campaign under way. Do you really have time to write a creative brief? Avoid the temptation to skip it!

Why write a creative brief?

Creative briefs help keep projects running smoothly and prevent misunderstandings and delays by:

  • Connecting objectives with creative strategies
  • Building team consensus
  • Aligning expectations
  • Defining clear, measurable goals

What’s included in a creative brief?

Key elements of the creative brief can include:

  • Background information on the company, product or service
  • Insight into the target audience
  • Brand attributes, promise and mission
  • Competitive landscape
  • Business objectives
  • Compelling offer
  • Call to action
  • Metrics for measuring success
  • Supporting data
  • Functional specifications (if applicable)
  • Approval process
  • Timelines
  • Budget

What are the steps to take when writing a creative brief?

Here’s a quick list of dos and don’ts for writing a creative brief.


  • Include all stakeholders. Gain input from all of the stakeholders, including those who’ll have final say over the project approval. Having buy-in from everyone up front will help ensure smooth sailing ahead!
  • Keep it short. People have a tendency to throw in everything but the kitchen sink when they write a creative brief. It’s better to be discriminating in identifying the most critical points to communicate. A succinct, well-written brief helps the creative team stay focused.
  • Have a conversation. A creative brief shouldn’t be written in a vacuum. It should be based on thought-provoking discussion with key contributors to ensure everyone is in agreement on primary goals and messaging.
  • Use insights to inspire. Think about the motivating insights that drive the audience. Such nuggets of data are precious to your creative team—helping to inspire original ideas.


  • Use a one-size-fits-all approach. Often creative teams use different types of creative briefs. Those for large projects cover overarching messaging and long-term objectives while rapid-response briefs are used for smaller projects.
  • Use meaningless descriptions. Leave out rote adjectives (a.k.a. innovative, state-of-the-art, etc, etc.) to describe the offering. Tell the creative team in plain language what really sets you apart. Having the real facts will help them develop a compelling message.
  • Provide just basic demographics. Help the creative team really “get” who the audience is and what motivates them. Paint a more well-rounded picture of who the target is. For example, if your audience is young affluent mothers, what are their key concerns? Where do they spend their time and money? What do they think of your brand today? What common objections might they have to your product/service and how can you overcome them?
  • Focus just on the product/service features. Studies show that people make buying decisions based on their emotional response to a product or brand. Think about the driving factors that lead a client to crave your offering.
  • Use generic/boilerplate descriptions. If there’s nothing unique or distinctive about the creative brief, the resulting creative won’t be either.
  • Let it get in the way of the project timeline. Take the time to develop a creative brief, but be cautious about doing so in a timely manner.

What are your best tips for developing an effective creative brief?

About the Author: Aquent is a global staffing company dedicated to marketing and creative services organizations and is a leader in helping companies increase marketing capacity by providing the right talent quickly. Its network of more than 400,000 marketing and creative services professionals provides access to a diverse field of talent that includes graphic designers, copywriters, branders, managers and market researchers. Aquent is the Official AIGA Sponsor for Professional Development, serving as a source for creative and design talent as well as providing access to great career opportunities for AIGA members nationwide.