The Brief Has Changed

The Annual IPA Conference on Growth took place in London last month, bringing together industry specialists and market thought leaders to discuss a theme of ‘The Brief has Changed’.

How to implement better briefing

Our CEO and Strategist Valerie Ludlow was invited to participate as a panelist alongside Mark Ritson (Brand Consultant and Columnist), Becky Brock (Commercial & Customer Director, Costa Coffee) and Kelly Parker (CEO at Wavemaker), to share in a discussion around How To Implement Better Briefing. The panel followed a session with the Co-Founder of Better Briefs, Pieter-Paul Van Weiler which initiated the conversation around the sorry state of client briefing and the inevitable reality of wasted marketing budgets and time.

Panel participants shared experiences around the wins and losses of briefing. Acknowledging that poor briefing may result in wasting time and resources but even more damaging, has a profound impact on the morale of agency teams. The existence of strong relationships between marketers and agencies was underlined as key to the success of any campaign and the panel discussed how these could be preserved and cultivated throughout the briefing lifetime.

A problem worsening

As Mark Ritson highlighted, the headache of bad briefing is not a new phenomenon. This is an issue that agencies have lamented for years but up until now have not had the qualitative data to back up their concerns. What the data now shows may not be surprising but is nonetheless illuminating and points towards a problem that is only worsening.

“We have to pivot and be agile. A brief can change, but it shouldn’t reinvent what you are asking. If it happens too often you start to ask what the point is.”

@ASGandPartners Valerie Ludlow

One statistic in particular stands out: 80% of marketers believe that they produce good briefs while only 10% of agencies agree. There’s simply no squaring of that circle. Not only are we missing a link between what we all understand to be a ‘good brief’ but more than that, marketers don’t even realise they have a problem with creating one, whatever it may look like. The irony here is that making improvements to briefing should not be difficult. In principle it’s an easy win, so what are we all doing wrong?

Focus on objectives

The panel discussed establishing a mutual understanding of what really makes a good brief as well as laying down good working practices and setting realistic timelines. Mark Ritson encouraged attention on the stage before briefing – that’s to say drilling down into target, positioning and really fleshing out the specific campaign objectives before even getting to the briefing stage. Valerie Ludlow turned the attention on the need for agencies to be able to pivot, to flex around the changes that inevitably crop up through the briefing process but to be clear on the fundamentals which should never change.

Ultimately the panelists centred on the priority of establishing basic and clear strategies above all else. Asking clients to identify the most important goals and keep the surrounding strategy simple. No agency is asking to be spoon fed every piece of information but establishing and returning to core objectives can facilitate the most constructive communications between agency and marketer. Only through clear communications can both marketer and agency better understand and action the brief, however the brief has changed.


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