‘If it doesn’t sell it isn’t creative’ [David Ogilvy]

Since the 50s ad agencies have used creative brief’s to develop great campaigns. we wrote this article because we think all web designers should really consider upping their game and getting creative before they shift a pixel. Our personal experience is that it actually saves you time in the long run. No more hassles writing good site copy, your UX is more precise, and your clients will be happier with the customer response. If you’re working with larger clients chances are they already have a creative brief. But if you work with smaller clients or a client without one this process is super rewarding.

What is a creative brief?

A creative brief is all about getting to the one message you want to communicate to customers. So if you’re developing a website you focus on one underlying communication message that will resonate throughout every page. It doesn’t matter if it’s a product page, pricing or about the company page… the underlying message should click with customers immediately.

As marketers you have all the power of the web at your finger tips and you should use it to reinforce a brand message. Whether it be web video, photography, copy, interactivity and micro UX. Writing a surgically focused creative brief is far better than trying to be everything and just confusing visitors. Or even worse, selling your clients products and services like a commodity meaning your site is just another grain in the consumer sandpit.

Creative Brief Structure

There’s a heap of different ways to write a creative brief and all ad agencies have a different method and preferred language.

But a typical creative brief have a few common elements

  • The Brand
  • Communication Objectives
  • Consumers & Target Audience
  • Single Minded Proposition
  • Reasons to Believe

To start off do research

Not all research needs to be expensive. Here’s what you can do…

  • Develop a brand questionnaire and get customer feedback with SurveyMonkey
  • Do an interview with key people
  • Look at industry research
  • Do onsite surveys with customers
  • Do a basic media audit
  • Get the client testimonials and read them cover to cover

Then start working through each element.

Element 1: The Brand

Most smaller companies won’t have well defined brand foundations so this will be hugely beneficial exercise for smaller clients.

It’s aim is to deliver a vision for the brand to guide your online strategy. “Who are we and where do we fit in the world?”

Answer the following and try to personify the brand…

Q1. Where would he/she I come from? What are he/she’s origin and history
Q2. What do I do? Field of Competence
Q3. What makes me different? Point of difference
Q4. Who am I for? The imagined customer
Q5. What am I like as a person? Personality
Q6. What do a fight for? The fight
Q7. What do I value? The value
Q8. Strategic concept

When I personify a brand a great trick is to think of other brands which are based on people for inspiration.

For Example Bond 007. As soon as the intro credits roll and the music levels up the audience knows what they are in store to see. Luxurious Destinations, Gadgets, Action, Villains, Ladies and of course Our Hero James Bond saving the world.

Whether you’re building an online strategy for a chocolate bar brand or a mining company you need to establish believable Brand Foundations.

For a mining company you could focus on many years of experience finding and operating mines.

Or it maybe an environmental focus and caring for the local communities and restoring the land to its virgin state.

As you work through the list you start to paint a picture of the brand then boil it down to a singular message which is the strategic concept.

As a marketer you should consider yourself a black hole the 7 questions above go in, condense, then at your center there is the point of singularity which is the two to four words that become the strategic concept.

Answer each question…
Q1. Where would he/she I come from? What are he/she’s origin and history

Discuss the brands history. Why was it successful in the past? Tell stories. Discuss founders and their values and try to build believability into your message.

Q2. What do I do? Field of Competence

What business is the brand in or does it want to be in? Define the geography of where you want to sell your services. What are the categories of products? What are the key problems that the products/services need to address.

Q3. What makes me different? Point of difference

What makes business of the brand different? Discuss the points of differentiation?

This is the point where companies go from being commodities to being individualized to your specific market.

Q4. Who am I for? The imagined customer

Who does your brand want to have a personal relationship with? And what is the mood of that relationship.

Consider each target as a person. What are they like? What are their needs and problems we solve?

Q5. What am I like as a person? Personality

So discuss the personality of the brand. Trade dress, language and visual identity.

Q6. What do a fight for? The fight

What is the mission of the brand? Be really specific nothing too broad that lacks impact.

Q7. What do I value? The value

What is the central value the brand provides?

Q8. Strategic concept

This becomes the summary of the above. It’s a short 3 to 5 word statement that encapsulates the total sum of all brand foundations.

Element 2: Communication Objectives

This is where you synthesise the key brand foundations with the communication objectives.

To create effective communications objectives you need a specific purpose.

Ask: What are the outcomes we want and how do we influence our market to act?

Element 3: Consumers & Target Audience

Ask: Who do we want to influence?

Element 4: Single Minded Proposition

Ask: What action we want them to take and what barriers are there to undertake these actions?

It should be a proposition that has not been used in the category before.

Outline what the reward or promise that serves as the motivation.

Then define the style and tone of the communication that refers back to the brand.

Element 5: Reason to Believe

After this look back on the proposition and ask is this believable? How can we strengthen the proposition and back it up to derive a better response.

And consider the desired action and proposition while working through your target audiences road to purchase, barriers and consumer buying process.

Element 6: Communications plan

Finally develop a communications plan.

No need to focus on media just focus on creating a project plan talking about timing and tactics.

So address the where, when and how we communicate and remember that just like what we are going to communicate, creativity is super important when developing a channel and communications plan.

In this case we’re mainly addressing digital so you could focus on content marketing, social media, online video, responsive design or an app.

Consider the budget and develop a creative communications plan to get the best outcomes for the client.


Measurement of campaign outcomes is essential and luckily with online measurement is easier to monitor than offline media. Likewise is far more cost effective.

It’s important to look back at the campaign objectives and link those with the data.

You can monitor everything from cost-per-lead to cost-per-sale to sales, ad recall, market share or distribution.

What should you do?

  • Set-up Adwords and Optimise it to track conversions.
  • Make sure you monitor pre vs post campaign results
  • Develop a marketing model to track key sales and marketing cost ROI
  • Develop post campaign questionnaires
  • Undertake interviews with key people in the company and ask them what feedback they’ve had from the campaign


Getting creative before you shift a pixel clearly leads to better campaign outcomes.

If you’re a web designer or emarketer a creative brief will enable you to focus the websites communication to derive a response and effect a visitors view of the brand.

What is important though is that after the campaign you measure and iterate on your approach a develop subsequent creative briefs to get a better and better outcome. The article Questions you should ask before designing a website in 2015 helps you getting the right information to formulate your creative brief.

Finally don’t be afraid to spend time getting a creative focus. Even if you don’t consider yourself creative once you work through the structure above you will get amazing insights to capitalist on.

Get creative and have fun!

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