No matter the industry, every creative team faces the same challenge of delivering excellent work under the most rigorous of deadlines. One important tool they use to organize incoming requests is the famed creative brief. In fact, some creatives say that a creative brief is the single most important indicator of whether a project will be successful or not. Even for internal creative teams, the use of a creative brief template can save time and effort and improve outcomes.
But there are plenty of briefs out there that simply aren’t optimized to get the job done. In fact, in a survey of more than 1,200 C-level agency executives, 53% found briefs complete but lacking in focus, 27% found them incomplete and inconsistent, and 20% found them complete and focused most of the time.
Having an ineffective creative brief is like having a compass that doesn’t point north — it’ll take you somewhere, but probably not where you want to be. In this blog post, we’ll explain what a creative brief is, how it should be designed, and what it should include. We’ll also take you through Wrike’s purpose-built template, the fastest and easiest route to a truly effective creative brief that you can customize to your unique needs.
What is a creative brief?
A creative brief is an important document that outlines the key elements of a marketing, creative, or advertising project. It’s where the “ask” is encapsulated, detailing exactly what is required and when. It can also, over the course of a project, serve as a roadmap for creatives to follow in order to stay aligned with the planned objectives, audience, and messaging.
While we will examine key inclusions in more detail later in this blog post, here are some important factors to keep in mind when thinking about drafting a brief:
- Objective: A brief should clearly define the stakeholders’ goals for the project. It could be increasing brand awareness, driving sales, or launching a new product.
- Target audience: Who are the consumers you’re trying to reach? Make sure you identify their demographics and behaviors so you can tailor the work to suit their needs.
- Messaging: Keep in mind the primary message you want to convey. This should be a compelling statement that resonates with your target audience.
- Tone and style: By defining a voice and visual style that aligns with your brand and audience, you can boost your message’s chance of being heard.
- Deliverables: It’s vital to list what needs to be produced at the end of the project. It could be any creative output, from a TV ad to a social media post or print campaign.
- Timeline: While they may change, specifying the project’s deadlines will ensure everyone is aware of timing expectations.
- Budget: Outlining the financial resources available for the project will help with optimizing resource management so the project doesn’t run over its budget.
- Publication/distribution: Some creative briefs also detail how the asset or deliverable should be put out into the world, whether via publication, broadcast, or any other means.
Taking the time to craft a detailed, inclusive creative brief will keep stakeholders aligned, the work focused, and the project on track for successful delivery.
Who should write creative briefs?
A creative brief is typically filled out by your account manager or traffic manager after a face-to-face discussion with the client. As the name implies, a brief should be relatively short (think one to three pages) and give a solid overview of what was agreed on in the meeting. The person writing it should be able to demonstrate a high level of creativity and strategy. If you still have questions, ask the client to clarify before you begin writing the brief just in case.
Account managers and traffic managers take note: this is the best time to ‘wow’ your client. Consider budget-saving or innovative alternatives to their big-picture items they might not have thought about otherwise. Bring on a content expert from outside your team who can help give you greater context about the work or industry before you finalize the brief. Or even consider interviewing other departments at the client’s company to get a feel for how they’ll use the brief or benefit from the project.
Should clients have a say in creative briefs?
This decision will depend on your organization, department, or team, but you should weigh the pros and cons. If clients don’t have a say in creative briefs, your team runs the risk of wasting billable hours and your client’s time working on activities that don’t align with their needs or wants. If they do, you’ll have a better idea of what they want and how they’d like to approach the project.
Remember, a creative brief isn’t just about the end goal, it’s also about the process. If your client will need to approve key elements or would prefer to be more hands-on, the creative brief not only defines that but it also lays the groundwork for your collaboration efforts throughout the project.
Creative brief template
As you might imagine, creative briefs can vary wildly depending on your organization’s style, the type of creative work, and who is actually drafting it. This haphazard approach can lead to inconsistencies, gaps in information, incorrect deliverables, and a less-than-professional look for clients.
Ideally, a department, team, or agency’s creative brief should be standardized and uniform to include all the information that is needed for seamless commissioning, creation, and delivery — a blueprint for creative success.
The best way to do this is to create a creative brief template for stakeholders to fill in. By taking the time to really consider what should be included, you can ensure you capture all the information you need from the get-go, minimizing any over-and-back messages asking for clarification. It will also help to eradicate wasted time because creatives can follow detailed instructions to create assets that get approved at the first pass.
The good news is that Wrike is here to help with guidance and advice based on more than a decade serving marketers and creatives in over 240 countries. To start, we created a fast and free creative brief template that’s available for immediate download in PDF and Google doc format (you’ll need to make a copy for your own use). This template will provide you with all the basics you need to put together a quick brief for sharing with colleagues and clients.
If you need something a little more sophisticated, we’ve also put together a detailed guide that’ll help you build a more advanced creative brief template. The best part about this template builder is that it is — like almost everything in Wrike’s platform — completely customizable. This means that you can adapt your template to ask questions specific to your business processes, clients’ needs, or creative output. You can even design different templates for different teams — for example, one for design, one for copywriting, and one for campaign management.
By following the steps in the guide, you can ensure that all stakeholders — from clients and project managers to designers and copywriters — have a clear understanding of the project’s objectives, target audience, messaging, tone, and style. Once you’ve created the brief, you can even generate tailored dashboards, unique workflows, and Gantt charts for a complete project overview.
Elements of a creative brief template
Wondering what is in a creative brief? While you can add custom sections to fulfill your goals and communicate intent, the following elements are must-haves:
1. Contact details
As with any work intake form, specify who the stakeholders are, list the contact details, and spell out the role they each play in the creative process. Do the same for your internal team. That way, it’s easier to reach out with questions at any point in the project.
2. Creative brief template overview
Outline the request at a high level. Paint a picture for your team that answers the who, what, and where of the project. Provide enough context so that your team comprehends how this job affects the bottom line.
Questions to answer:
- What is this job about?
- Who are the stakeholders?
- Who are the assignees?
3. The objectives
Here’s where you summarize the goals of this job. That way, if there’s any disagreement over the execution of the project, you can tie it back to the goals.
Questions to answer:
- What do the stakeholders wish to achieve?
- If it’s a customer-facing deliverable, what action do you want the end user to take?
4. The audience profile
This section tackles the target audience. If you build a complete picture of the audience that you must persuade, then your creative team can do a better job of tailoring their work to the audience’s needs and concerns.
Questions to answer:
- Who are they, and where do they live or work?
- How will they be reached?
- What issues concern them?
- What do you want them to feel, think, or do?
5. The execution specifics
Here’s where the main meat of the creative brief lies. This section should hold all the execution details and creative brief sample questions about the deliverable and how you communicate your message.
Questions to answer:
- Tone: What is the tone of your written copy and message? What adjectives describe the feeling or approach? What do these adjectives mean to the customer?
- Message: What are you saying with this job? Does messaging need to be developed? What will the audience remember at the end? What similar messages are competitors using?
- Visuals: How will visuals help convey the message? Is there a certain visual style the client wants? Are there visuals in place already, or do they need to be created?
- Other details: List all deliverables and their formats/sizes.
- Timeline, schedule, and budget: When do things need to be done? How much will it cost?
How to write a creative brief
Now that you know what writing a creative brief is all about, here are some more details about what goes into a creative brief.
Start with a project summary that gives a big-picture overview of what the project is in the simplest terms, who the project will help, and why it’s important. Anyone who glances at this one or two-sentence statement should instantly understand what the creative brief is all about.
For example, a creative brief for a blog may read like this: “Blog keyword research project aimed at building a calendar of posts for small business owners who need expert productivity coaching.” Here you can see the deliverable is clear and so is the audience. You also know exactly what the end goal is (booking coaching clients), which will help determine the steps needed to accomplish it, like adding a CTA about a consultation at the end of each post.
Then, further define your audience with detailed information about their demographics as well as their goals, fears, and likes or dislikes. After, explain what problem the solution posed in the brief will solve if accomplished. Continuing with our blog example, it might look something like this: “Company A has a blog that is active but has lower than average traffic numbers but is their most successful conversion tool for coaching clients. In order to get more views (and, ultimately, more sales), our keyword research will improve domain authority and get first placements in search engine results.”
Once that’s done, you’ll need to describe the goal (outlined in SMART goal terms) plus how the goal will be measured and what timeline will be followed. You’ll also define who is involved and what role they play. And last but not least, the creative brief will end with budget and finance information. Both of these sections can be identified as client financial management.
Incorporating cultural and social context in a creative brief
No creative team exists in a vacuum — we’re all operating in an increasingly globalized world, creating work that will be seen by a wide audience in multiple locations. That means understanding the cultural and social context of your target audience is vital. A creative brief isn’t just a tool to guide your team — it’s also a strategic document that should reflect a deep understanding of the audience you’re trying to reach.
Every culture has unique aspects that can significantly impact how a message is received. From color symbolism to communication styles, these cultural nuances can affect the perception of your project. For example, humor varies widely from one culture to another. A joke that might be hilarious in one country could be seen as confusing or even offensive in another. If your creative brief is for a campaign that includes humor, it’s crucial to ensure that the joke will resonate positively with your target audience.
Cultural differences don’t just affect the content of your project — they also influence its format and delivery. For instance, some cultures prefer detailed, long-form content, while others value brevity and directness. Some audiences might engage more with visual content, while others prefer text-based information. Where one market is familiar with brash, colorful imagery, another could prefer a more subtle approach.
Considering social context and incorporating cultural nuances into your creative brief can help ensure that your project is not only culturally sensitive but also effective in achieving its goals.
Here are some tips on how to incorporate cultural and social context into a creative brief:
- Research your audience: Use market research, surveys, and social media to gain a deep understanding of your target audience’s cultural and social context
- Include cultural insights in your brief: If it’s relevant, make sure to include a section or set of questions in your creative brief dedicated to cultural insights
- Consider local experts: If you’re targeting an audience in a different country or culture, consider working with location experts or culturally experienced consultants
- Test your ideas: Before launching a project, trial your ideas with a small segment of your target audience to ensure your draft asset or campaign resonates as intended
Creative brief example
So what might a good creative brief look like? To give you a sense of what should be included, we’ve put together a quick example of a creative brief for a fictional company, Healthy Habits, which is launching a new product: a fitness tracking app. That brief might read as follows:
Project overview: Healthy Habits is launching a new fitness tracking app aimed at encouraging individuals to adopt healthier lifestyles. This project involves creating a comprehensive marketing campaign to promote the app.
Objective: The objective of the marketing campaign is to generate awareness about the new fitness tracking app, drive app downloads, and encourage user engagement.
Target audience: Our target audience is a group of health-conscious individuals aged 18–35, who are tech-savvy and interested in tracking their fitness progress.
Unique selling proposition: Healthy Habits fitness tracking app not only tracks your physical activities but also provides personalized workout and diet plans based on your lifestyle, preferences, and goals.
Message: Empower your fitness journey with Healthy Habits — a personal fitness companion that adapts to your lifestyle.
Tone: The tone of the campaign should be motivational, empowering, and friendly.
- Social media campaign: A series of engaging posts for Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter
- Email marketing: A planned sequence of emails to our subscriber list introducing the new app and its features
- Website content: A website update with new product information and promotional banners
- Blog posts: Three informative articles about the benefits of fitness tracking, encouraging readers to use our app
- Press release: An announcement to media outlets with all the key details of the new product launch
Timeline: The project should be completed within a three-month period, starting from the first week of January to the end of March.
This is just a basic example of a fictional project. Of course, every brief will differ, depending on the project, its objectives, target audience, and the creative strategy. However, a few things should apply to every brief, regardless of the exact content and purpose — it should be clear, concise, and aligned with your project or strategic goals.
Creative brief case studies
Reebok needed to spread awareness about its newest product through a campaign that involved a discount offer. Its clearly defined target audience outlines gender, age group, marital status, income range, and key areas of interest related to the product. It used an unconventional “Insight” and a “Single-Minded Thought” section to further cater to its specific needs within the brief. This is a great example of a creative brief format that follows the rules while also personalizing it for the goal.
Looking to reach a previously untapped market, Red Bull designed a creative brief to outline who it wanted to reach (in this case men and women experiencing mid-life crises) and how it would reach them (trying something new to help achieve their dreams before it’s too late). Note the section on rational and emotional reasons to buy. This makes it easy for marketers to develop a clear and strategic path forward.
Monopoly used its creative brief to outline where its product stands in the market today and where it would like to be in the future. It defined what the point of communication with its audience was, as well as what mandatory project requirements the team came up with.
What the creative brief template can (and can’t) do
No matter how you structure your creative brief, the end result will be like a checklist outlining the information and objectives of a campaign. However, never underestimate the value of a comprehensive, well-thought-out creative brief — it can guide the work in a specific direction, provide the details of the audience, client, and pain points, and might even inspire the team to generate some groundbreaking ideas.
Jeff Goodby, co-chair and partner at advertising agency GS&P, once likened the creative brief to a fisherman’s guide — that person who takes you to the best place to fish, and even provides you with ideas on which bait and lures to use. He won’t fish for you, but he provides the fisherman (the creative talent) with the information and inspiration to be successful.
Build creative briefs with Wrike
As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when writing a creative brief. Clients or stakeholders will have to complete whatever sections you include, and you want to make sure you haven’t wasted their time or yours. Often, it helps to think about the end result and work your way backwards. For example, if you cast your mind back to your most recent project, were there any mid-project questions or last-minute changes? Try to avoid these by making sure you have all the information you need upfront in a detailed creative brief.
Sounds like a lot? We get it, which is why we’ve done the hard work for you. Access Wrike’s comprehensive guide to building a creative brief template that can be completely customized to your needs. We didn’t stop there, either — we’ve also included instructions on how to create a workflow and dashboard to manage incoming work, as well as generate a Gantt chart to visualize the project deadlines and ensure your great work is delivered on time, every time.