Introduction to Creative Briefs
Many times, when we think about the creative process, we envision brainstorms, funny or clever concepts, inspirational imagery…and no idea is a bad idea. Being creative is fun, exciting and refreshing, whether it be for TV, radio, print or even online advertising. And dialing in just the right message for your product or service builds belief and confidence in your business.
But, before you ever get to the glamour of snappy concepts and ideas, there is a critical process you must not skip. This process is so foundational to the creative process that it absolutely can be the difference between a winning campaign and a mediocre effort.
In this article we are going to cover and explore how to develop and write a Creative Brief the correct way. Here’s what we will discuss:
If you are new to creative brief development, then this article will provide you a good foundation to understanding the entire process. If you are an advertising or marketing pro, you can use this information as a refresher and as a supplement to what you are already doing. If you work with an agency, a good creative brief is key to keeping external teams in synch.
Writing a powerful and effective creative brief is a process and it takes effort, time and research. So it’s good to prepare your mindset for creative brief development – that it won’t be something you can do quickly. Nor should you. But what you get out of this effort will set the tone for success in your campaign.
What Is a Creative Brief?
Let’s begin by defining the creative brief. In the advertising world, a creative brief is a document that outlines and defines the creative project, the campaign goals and objectives, target audience, marketing tactics, brand requirements, creative deliverables, desired consumer actions, offers and incentives, competitors and overall positioning. And there could be more details as well.
The best creative briefs are the result of in-depth dialog with your client or marketing team, based on asking the right questions for the particular project. And in many cases, creative briefs can become living, breathing documents with enough flexibility to change to the needs of the campaign.
The Creative Brief’s Purpose
Every creative project/campaign should begin with a creative brief. And here’s why. Without a clear roadmap outlining objectives, goals and deliverables, it’s only a matter of time before the project begins to wander. Ultimately, collaboration and teamwork begin to suffer, and you may be setting yourself up for failure.
So let’s take a look at the purpose your creative brief will serve and why it’s perhaps the most important process of creative development.
A well-executed creative brief will:
In short, the creative brief is the guiding mechanism for everyone to follow throughout the project. A strong creative brief will become a frequent reference document for all team members to ensure everyone is working toward the same goal while staying within the defined parameters of the project.
What a Creative Brief Should Include
While there is no single format to use for every creative brief, you will want your document to convey important information. One good way to determine what is needed and what is extraneous is to ask yourself “who needs what to get this project completed”? The creative team certainly will need to know any brand requirements or must-haves, while the media team would want to know of any competitors in the space. So while not completely inclusive, the list below illustrates many common yet critical pieces of information in a good creative brief.
Our creative briefs here at tandemROI take into account most of the items listed above, depending on the type of project. All in about three to four pages. Let’s now examine how to cull all this information down and write an effective brief.
Write the Creative Brief
Before you begin writing your creative brief, it’s good to take time and gather all of your information, such as product information, sales background info, historical data, research, focus group data, client input, etc. It’s important to be methodical and diligent in your information gathering phase, as doing so makes compiling the creative brief that much easier. Do not rush your creative brief – it should become the guiding light for each project.
A good first rule in writing a creative brief is to get to the point, and stay with the point. Otherwise, you could be looking at a brief that reads more like a novel than a creative roadmap. Again, we keep our briefs to the point and can cover most key information in 3-4 pages. Every brief will be different, but the shorter the better. The more concise you can be, the less room for interpretation and missteps by team members. It is definitely called a brief for a reason.
Creative briefs come in a variety of formats, and there are many good, free templates online. There is no one set format you need to use. Some briefs are written completely in narrative form, while others are formatted into different sections. We have found over the years that using formatted sections (simply using tables in a Word doc) will help keep the content concise and to the point. Pick whatever is easiest for you to use, as the content is key, not the actual format.
Keep in mind certain sections of your creative brief will be more detailed and longer than other sections. For example, sections regarding deliverables and goals might be very straight forward and shorter, while positioning, competitive, etc. might be much more detailed.
As with any well written document, it’s advisable to get your rough draft in place first, then review for edits and revisions. Refine and tighten. Clarify and be exact. Rough first passes on your creative brief should probably only be reviewed by those necessary to complete the document, before you distribute to the broader team/client group.
Implement the Creative Brief
Proper distribution and implementation of your creative brief is key to moving everyone in the same direction, at the same time.
Once the creative brief is completed, it’s time to distribute it out to the team, or even multiple teams. So in addition to creative, media or technical teams, you may also need to consider other stakeholders such as executive management or any outside consultants participating in the project. And in our experience, it is important to position the brief as the roadmap for the upcoming project or campaign. Questions regarding creative positioning, brand messaging, etc. should really be answered in context of the existing brief. It’s always a good idea to keep the creative brief as a central part of ongoing project meetings.
Keep in mind that creative briefs can be updated if necessary. In fact, it is common to adjust certain areas such as product offer and pricing, as many times these components are subject to last minute revisions.
How to Extract the Maximum Value from Your Creative Brief
With your creative brief in place, one of the best ways to ensure strong buy-in and comprehension among team members is through communication. Don’t just email out the brief and hope, or assume, that everyone is clear on the content. One method we use to ensure comprehension is to meet in person with teams and do a walk-thru of the creative brief. Doing so allows for questions and answers, clarifications and even certain modifications.
Additionally, if you are writing the brief for a client, schedule a time to formally walk through the document with them. Often you will find that valuable, additional information can arise at this point in the process.
Writing an effective creative brief is an essential part of any creative and campaign process. By capturing and organizing key ideas, thoughts and brand requirements in the beginning, you can ensure all teams move in the same direction toward the end product.
Need assistance with your creative processes? Contact us today.
As an agency, we enjoy a unique perspective on data – that is, we see consumer web purchasing behaviors across many different product campaigns, in many different categories, all at once. Day in and day out, week after week, month after month. Regardless of category, predictable patterns amalgamate and provide us reliable trends upon which we can help our clients better merchandise their web efforts.
In just about every case, a 30% improvement in web conversions moves a mediocre campaign into success territory. If your web conversion rates - particularly with mobile traffic - are lagging, here are five consumer mindsets you can address in one business week.
Day 1. Answer These Two Questions First
Consumers buy products and services for any number of reasons – and usually you only need to satisfy a few basic questions in most cases to get the sale. Make sure you answer the two most often asked questions by consumers high up on the page first – 1) what do I need to do to see the benefit of the product, and 2) how much does it cost? Armed with that info, consumers will make a quick price-to-value ratio calculation and determine if they are ready to transact or not. Once you’ve gotten those two key transaction requirements out of the way, you can then language your copy to provide further detail and reasons to believe.
Day 2. Avoid Intimidating Copy
The more you tell, the more you sell, right? Wrong. Most consumers only need to read a few key points to satisfy their mental checklist required to make a purchasing decision. In short, the better you tell, the more you sell. Heavy copy impedes sales – especially with long scrolling mobile or responsive sites. In fact, in hundreds of variant tested landing pages, we always see lean copy pages convert much higher. Avoid creating more questions than answers in the consumer’s mind with tight copy and strategic links if the reader needs more information.
Day 3. Video Sells
Video is the greatest salesman on your site. And a quick video how-to for your product or service will get views, lots of views, and can be the single biggest selling mechanism on your site. It’s not hard to create, and it doesn’t cost a lot of money if you don’t want it to. Point a camera and go. And put it high up on your landing page versus under a tab or link. Variant page testing proves video sells.
Day 4. Increase Your Offer Value
When discussing campaign ROI with our clients, a key topic we address is average order value, and price to value ratio. With a sunk to cost to acquire your web visitor, it is essential you then generate a revenue per visit level that can drive your campaign. And the quickest way you can do that is creating value-based offers upon checkout. In testing, we see a typical average order can be increased 30-50% by kitting, bundling and merchandising the product offer. Consumers are willing to pay more to get more, if presented properly.
Day 5. Stop Sabotaging the Sale
Perhaps the simplest of all things you can do to increase conversions is to ensure you do not have inadvertent stop signs at the point of purchases. Have you surrounded your Buy or Checkout buttons with disclaimer links, asterisks, T&C’s or other language unnecessarily? If so, you are creating doubt in the consumer’s mind at the point of purchase. In variant testing, we have seen as much as a 50% decrease in conversions when disclaimer type language is in close proximity to Buy buttons. From a legal standpoint, you absolutely must be genuine in any disclosures you need to make, and they should be easy to locate. However, in most cases, they typically do not need to be executed at point of purchase.
With just a little time and not much effort in terms of web design, you can affect your web conversion significantly. Once you have these five steps completed, keep going. What you can do the following week to push conversion rates even higher?
Have more comprehensive issues with your site or web conversions? Contact us today for additional context of how your site's performance measures against others.
Gaining Control, Saving Money, and the Horror of Losing ESPN during March Madness!
While talk of cord cutters, aka consumers cancelling their cable TV, is on the rise, the reality may not match the current hype. In fact, the process of actually getting out of cable was quite the learning experience. I’ve done it recently, and I've laid out my consumer experience below.
But first, it is a fact: consumers are migrating over to streaming services such as Roku, Amazon and Apple. And some are cancelling their cable service in exchange for an entirely different viewing experience, which with time, is quite liberating. Advertisers and marketers will face a new set of acquisition decisions as this migration gains momentum.
But let’s talk about actual cord cutting. If you are contemplating it, read on, as it can be a labyrinth of decisions, follow ups, tech issues and behavior adjustments. But, if you can dare to go where few go, you will discover a sense of freedom and control you didn’t know possible.
Let me try to encapsulate the process:
Step One: head over to Best Buy, Amazon or any number of retailers and select your streaming device. This could be a Roku, Chromecast, an Amazon Fire Stick, Apple TV, etc. Or, buy a smart TV if you are in the market.
Step One and a Half: don’t forget to pick up a digital tuner, aka rabbit ears, so you can pick up your local stations. Yes, rabbit ears.
Step Two: compete the set up of your streaming device with your TV. This involves various accounts being set up, both online and through your TV. However, for the most part, there is no charge for using the streaming devices once you buy them.
Step Three: confirm your streaming service is working, and tune in your digital tuner for local stations. This requires another set up through your TV to actually program the tuner to pick up these stations.
Step Four: select the streaming channels you like. The most well known are Netflix, HuluPlus, Amazon, HBO Go and others. Of course, these cost money, but a few offer free trials. Beyond these, there are literally thousands of free streaming channels, many catering to just about any niche you can think of. A number of cable networks stream their content for free, including History, H2, Smithsonian, AE, Fox, CBS, ABC and more. Many news outlets also provide free content.
Step Four and a Half: set up accounts with paid streaming channels such as Hulu and Netflix. Think Netflix for movies, HuluPlus for recent TV shows.
Step Five: call cable company and cancel your service, but only after you know for sure your streaming system is working. Be prepared to justify, explain and then question complex pricing systems if you are at all bundled. For example, I was bundled with TV, Internet and Home Security. By cancelling TV, my Internet rate actually went up. This was due to unbundling supposedly.
Step Six: wait for your cable to be cut off. Then check your other bundled services for service outage. It seems it can be difficult for cable companies to just disconnect cable TV. In true fashion, Internet was cut, but Home Security stayed up, so it was trip number two to come out and reconnect Internet.
Step Seven, if necessary: call cable provider to come back out and reconnect Internet service.
Step Eight: adjust your thinking. Streaming TV gives you pure on demand, watch what you like when you feel like it control. This takes some time to adjust in your mind. Give it two weeks. From there, your entire viewing experience improves for the better. Services such as HuluPlus, and many of the actual streaming networks include a few short ads. Netflix does not. While ads are ads and good for marketers, I found the length of the breaks to be so short as to not be intrusive.
Step Nine: prepare yourself for no ESPN. ESPN and a few other mainline cable networks require you to enter your cable system provider before you can watch their content streamed through your TV or other devices. This one caught me off guard. Thank goodness for the new Sling TV. This is a paid service, about $20/month, which carries ESPN, TNT, TBS and others. It got me through March Madness, then I cancelled it.
Final step: enjoy being out from under the thumb of cable TV provider pricing, as well as substantial savings on an annual basis. I estimate about $1100 annual savings. Even better, you now you can watch the content you like, as you like, with total control over your schedule.
tandemROI is a cross-channel advertising and marketing agency located in Tampa, FL.
It's All in the Numbers, If You Know Where to Look
Whether we're in a new business pitch, or at a tradeshow, or at a networking event, we're often asked how success is measured in our business. In the direct response arena, it's fairly simple - direct sales and revenues. And do those sales/revenues exceed the marketing investment to acquire that customer.
Success lies in the data, pure and simple. So to understand a campaign's efficiency, and to make solid ROI optimization moves, there are many metrics we measure and analyze. Below we've listed the top six direct response metrics, when measured properly, can provide clear answers and direction for just about any campaign.
CPR – cost per response
Media spend / total responses (phone + web)
Here we factor in all responses and divide into the spend. This provides a good benchmark of how responsive the program is and can be an indicator of how strong the creative is pulling.
CPC – cost per call
Media spend / total calls
While phone volume is declining currently, measuring cost per call is still a very reliable metric for efficiency, as toll free calls are tracked in a 1:1 ratio to each network via unique toll free number.
CPV – cost per visit
Media spend / unique web visitors
It is not uncommon to have at least 80% of upfront response go to the web when phone and URL are displayed. CPV gives a clear indication of web response and efficiency. In pure drive to web programs, CPV will be the key front end response metric.
CPL – cost per lead
Media spend / total leads
For lead generation programs, or two-step sales models, CPL will be the key metric in evaluating efficiency. CPL is dictated heavily by the conversion path process (phone or web) and not the creative or media.
CPO – cost per order
Media spend / total orders
In the end, CPO is the ultimate metric in any direct response campaign. However, CPO is a product of the sales conversion process, not creative or media, so care should be given in how this metric is evaluated.
AOV - average order value
Revenues / total orders
AOV is an important direct response metric in that it can be directly compared to CPO to determine whether revenue exceeds the cost to acquire. AOV can and should be heavily influenced by a solid upsell strategy.
Depending on a direct response campaign's compexity, many more metrics may come into play. For example, on a drill down basis, some companies will use a CPLS metric. CPLS is cost per lead sold. Thus in a two step model, leads are measured on the front end, then corresponding sales conversion data is supplied later as the sales cycle completes. This data then paints a clear of how many of those leads actually convert to a sale, a key metric for any sales department within an organization.
The Impact On Your Brand Must Be A Consideration
One of the most common, and intense, discussions we have with our direct response clients is about offer. As in, what do you think is the best offer for this TV campaign, or this print ad, or this radio spot? Our response is always the same – go out with your absolute strongest offer, for the particular customer you are after. However, the strongest offer doesn’t necessarily mean a free offer. So read on to gain a better understanding of how your direct response offer must match the targeted consumer’s transactional mindset.
Let’s start with FREE. We are big fans of the four letter word as it relates to direct response marketing. In most offers we construct, if possible, there is a free component. We know historically that free drives bigger response. So there is much merit in the word free, as well as an offer incorporating something free. For example, bonus or free items, of course, sweeten any type of offer and build value in the consumer’s mind. Many times this free component is the catalyst to push the consumer to transact. So, free is good. However, while free add-ons or bonus items are effective, free does not always work as a main offer component. It’s critical to understand why.
Where FREE gets dicey. We’ve all seen them running heavily – DRTV offers with free trial, just pay p&h; or buy one, get one free, just pay p&h, etc. As of late, the lead price is sinking even lower, to around the $10 mark at this point. While we do see these types of offers work from time to time, you must be aware of all of the implications of this type of offer. And in many cases, this offer will not be the best, or strongest, type offer for your product or service. This is where having a complete understanding of your customer and their mindset comes into play. Let’s take a look at the pros, and the risks, of FREE and BOGO for your product/brand. These risks come straight from real world campaigns, several which are running now.
First, a typical free offer might look like this:
Try this widget in your home today for free, just pay P&H. You’ll also receive this free widget when you call or go online.
And a BOGO like this:
Get this widget for just $9.95, plus P&H. But wait, when you order, we’ll double the offer and give you a second widget absolutely free. Just pay additional P&H.
Pros of FREE/BOGO:
1) Grabs the consumer’s attention quickly
2) Low consumer barrier to cross for engagement
3) Easy for consumer to justify/rationalize the transaction
4) Can create big value build in the consumer’s mind
5) Can drive large up front response/inquiries, a requirement for continuity based programs
Risks of FREE/BOGO
1) Can turn off more affluent potential customers
2) Often degrades the brand/perceived value of the product or service
3) Typically drives a lower quality and lower converting respondent
4) Significantly more customer service issues, including returns
5) Consumers reject add-ons such as additional P&H, upsells or club offers and only want free item
6) Many times tied to an ongoing spend commitment by the consumer
As you can see, while there are some good reasons to test a true free offer, there’s quite a bit of downside. It’s at this point where we work with clients to zero in on the actual, true objective of the campaign. Is it just to drive up front sales revenues? Is it to build a customer database quickly that you can remarket to? Is it to drive retail distribution and ultimately sales at retail? Is it to build a brand over the long haul?
By staying true to the real objective, you can better align with the particular customer you are seeking, and thus find the right offer that resonates. For example, over the years we’ve seen that free offers or BOGO offers are not the best way to build trust and legitimacy (requirements for brand building) for new products in the minds of the consumer. While they do satisfy an instant gratification need for the value seeker, free offers tend to generate short term awareness.
Conversely, if you understand your target customer thoroughly, you may find that what resonates best is finding the right price, in conjunction with a solid value proposition. In many cases, we’ve tested free offer vs. a price disclosed offer on the same product, with the price disclosure version actually performing better. Many consumers, when presented with a good product that resolves their problem, will be more than willing to transact right then and there. Keep in mind, it is possible to oversell unnecessarily to consumers with the free or BOGO offer.
In the end, taking time to think through your potential customer’s mindset and the category in which you are operating are essential early steps in direct response offer development. By avoiding a possible herd mentality that free is always better, you can now think logically about what the consumer actually wants, needs and what propels them to transact.
Writing a Creative Brief