The creative strategy (or lack there of). Making your advertising make sense.

Follow my own direction
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One of the benefits of working as a creative freelancer for seven years is I got to see how different agencies brief their clients and creative teams on how they’re planning to achieve advertising goals. Ideally, all this information is boiled down in a magical document called the creative strategy. In it’s best form, everything the client needs to approve the work and everything the creative team needs to execute the advertising should be distilled into a succinct, one page document.

Many agencies struggle with getting this right and many do it brilliantly. And most certainly, there are a lot of brand managers, account executives and planners who don’t have a firm grasp on what a creative team needs to turn their insights into brilliant work. So I write this with the best of intentions and hope this helps someone out there. And in the least, it lets a few creatives know what they should be getting from their strategy team.

Each paragraph represents a heading that should be written in a sentence or two – any longer and it means the strategy isn’t tight enough yet. The thinking is based on an old Bill Bernbach document that was handed down to me and has been refined over the years – not that I have the right to refine master, but I have done it anyway.

Objective – This is not a litany of all the problems the marketing department, the sales department and the executives tell the account team they have. An advertising campaign, whether done in print, TV or the Web should be focused on one single-minded problem that is solvable with advertising.  If it is not, well advertising probably isn’t the best solution. The objective is one simple sentence without compound direct objects. Don’t confuse this with a marketing communications plan. KISS.

A lot of briefs start out with “why are we advertising? or “background.” That’s fine, but these topics/headings often digresses and can end up confusing the objective.

Target: Back in the day of Bernbach this was a pretty simple answer. You were advertising to either mom, dad, grandma or junior. These days, planners and researchers are getting well past demographics and psyhcographics to technographics and even some new fangled thing called socialgrahics. Keep this a simple as possible while still explaining who this person is. As complicated as people are, their motivations are still pretty simple.

Current perception: How does the target feel about the brand or product you are advertising? Don’t complicate this and the above topic with psycho babble. You can put the babble in a supporting document if you really think it’s necessary and will help the creative team.

Unique selling position or key benefit: Not every product has a unique selling position (a subject for another post) but every creative strategy should include a key benefit. This is the single, best reason why someone would want to buy your product. If there isn’t one, you haven’t thought hard enough. Again, this should be a clear singular statement of fact.

Supporting points or “reasons why”: This is why a customer should believe the the key benefit. If it doesn’t support the above statement it is irrelevant and only serves to muddy your logic.

Single Sentence: This is stated for the consumers perspective and describes what the consumer should say to themselves after reading or watching your advertising. “I should buy acme brand cornflakes because they have more fiber.” While it may seem like a simple restatement of the key benefit it actually servers two purposes. It helps the strategy writer see if their key benefit sounds smart or ridiculous stated from the consumer’s perspective and gives the creative team a different window on what the advertising is supposed to do.

Media: What media is the work going to run in, on, will be built for or be broadcast on. I know it’s a new age, but simply list it out here – create a supporting document if you must.

Mandatories: This is where you tell your team if there’s a legal reason you have to include an FHA logo on the work, a copyright line, a disclaimer or you can’t use certain word without being sued.

This formula is deceptively short and simple but it’s not always easy to execute. If the writer does a good job on this everything that follows has a better chance of succeeding.

Account people, you may not know it, but you need this document to be smartly developed as much as your creative teams does. The better this is written and discussed with your client, the better the process of getting the client to sign off on the brief will be, the easier executing the work will be, and the more fun the selling the product will be.

ed note: This isn’t exactly the way we do it at Kilgannon (but not way off) and reflects my opinion only.

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Posted on: February 1, 2010, by :