Building the Right Box: Writing Creative Briefs

Creativity is frequently associated with the term, “Thinking Outside The Box.” But, despite our best attempts to quantify and understand creativity, sometimes it can be extremely difficult to do this, and just as well, it’s difficult to start even the best projects without some direction.

This is why brand or account planners exist in advertising agencies. I like to think of the role of a planner in briefing as “building the right box.” Rather than just saying we need an ad for Chevrolet about the new Bolt to a creative team and expecting greatness to come out, they come to planners. Our job is to sift through mounds of data and listen to consumers for the right insight to give creatives the direction they need.

This way, instead of being forced constantly to, “think outside the box”, we can give creatives a space to think in that can produce consistently impactful, great work.

There are three problems that you can get into when trying to “build the right box”: Having too narrow a scope, too broad a scope, or missing the point.

When you miss the point, you just built the wrong box; it was the wrong material, the wrong size, etc. In proper terms, you had the wrong insight, the wrong target market, or gave the wrong direction.

As far as too narrow or broad a scope, you’ve just built the wrong size. Too small a box forces your creative team to make your ad too niche. It will impact a few people but likely not as many people as it could have had you had the correct scope in your work. Too big a box and your ad will try to impact everyone. You’ll end up trying to be everything to everyone rather than honing in on who you can and should be writing your ad for.

This all to say, the most important thing a planner can do in the briefing process is empower your creative team. The best way you can empower them is not to get them thinking outside the box, but rather, it is to give them the freedom and the trust to think inside the box by “building the right box.”

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