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 complete 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, 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. We've laid out all the elements of a truly effective creative brief template so you can customize it to your needs.
What is a creative brief?
A creative brief is an outline that marketers draft to describe what will be contained in final deliverables for their clients. Deliverables in this case can be anything from eBooks to social media campaigns. After it’s done, a creative brief is usually approved by collaborators like writers, graphic designers, and marketing agencies before being sent off to other stakeholders.
Most creative briefs cover big§ picture concerns such as goals, scope, budgets, timelines, tools and resources needed, and key demographics. Not everything is set in stone, but once a creative brief is finalized, teams should do their best to adhere to its contents. At the same time, it’s good to be flexible as things come up after the creative project management begins, so prepare some contingency plans for any foreseeable roadblocks just in case.
Why do you need a creative brief template?
The goal of any creative brief is to provide the team the details of the job requested. At the bare minimum, it should contain five things:
- Project scope: This outlines both tone and execution.
- Context: Useful when the work is part of a greater vision.
- Timeline: So you can allocate your resources effectively.
- Goals: Get everyone on the same page before you begin.
- Preparation: Details on what needs to be done in advance before project kickoff.
Remember, the creative brief should also inspire the team. It should synthesize all the information from the customer or client, and distill information in a way that encourages creativity and motivates the team to do their best work.
This creative brief sample template we put together is meant to be a guide. Your team can and should customize it based on your needs and circumstances.
Besides getting all project stakeholders aligned with the creative vision and process from the very beginning, a creative brief is the foundation of your project management workflow. With the priorities all laid out in front of you, it’s easy to see which areas will need the most investment of time and resources. You can use the creative brief to outline project phases, set dates for stakeholder check-ins, and add important tasks to the list.
As you draft and reflect on your own creative brief, compare each point side by side with your primary objectives. Keep what aligns and discard what doesn’t. Trimming the fat now will give teams more wiggle room for the unexpected and save on resources wherever possible.
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?
Yes, clients should absolutely have a say in creative briefs. If they don’t, 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.
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?
We put together a downloadable creative brief template (PDF) that you can use to get started.
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.
Creative brief examples
Reebok needed to spread awareness about their newest product through a campaign that involved a discount offer. Their clearly defined target audience outlines gender, age group, marital status, income range, and key areas of interest related to the product. They used an unconventional “Insight” and a “Single-Minded Thought” section to further cater to their 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 they wanted to reach (in this case men and women experiencing mid-life crises) and how they 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 their creative brief to outline where their product stands in the market today and where they’d like to be in the future. They defined what the point of communication with their 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 structured 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-chairman 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 your creative brief with Wrike Dynamic Request Forms
While the template we suggest above is perfectly usable as a PDF, writing a creative brief can still be time consuming. Remember, you can further streamline the way you accept incoming work requests and how you manage all ongoing creative jobs even before it’s complete.
Wrike is a collaboration tool used by many creatives and marketers to manage the rhythm and organization of all creative work — from intake to execution and delivery. Try out our free Wrike Dynamic Request Forms to manage all the details you need for your creative brief.