Chapter 22Take the Word Brief Seriously

I once worked at an agency where we wrote briefs that were as fat as the Manhattan Yellow Pages (well, maybe not quite that big, but you get the picture). The account guys wrote them (there were no Planners at this shop). We were so proud of these briefs. They were so thorough, so exhaustive in their detail, so exhausting to read.

The agency hired a new Creative Director, who tried working with these briefs for a few months. One day, he appeared in the doorway of my office, my latest masterwork in hand (actually in two hands; it was a two-fisted document). His expression was a combination of exasperation and despair. “This isn't a brief; it's the anti-brief!” he exclaimed.

He sat down and dropped the offending document on my desk. It landed with a solid thud. “Here's what we need,” he said, as he pulled out a pen and scribbled this outline:

  1. Key fact
  2. Problem
  3. Objective
  4. Key benefit
  5. Support
  6. Tone
  7. Audience
  8. Competition
  9. Mandatories

“That's it,” he said. “Forget about telling me everything you know; just tell me what I need to know to make good advertising.” Before he stomped out, he added, “And stop writing these things on your own. Get the creatives in the room with you and figure it out together.”

Now, this Creative Director could have gone to any number of account people at the agency, but he came to me. I didn't know whether to be flattered or insulted, but I guess he chose me because I wrote the longest briefs of all. I'd also like to think ...

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