I really enjoyed watching Gareth Kay’s recent presentation on the creative brief in this digital age we find ourselves. Lots has changed in the world. But the “who are we talking to?” and “why should they believe us?” are still on many a brief.
And even if our jobs, at least mine I’m happy to report, are becoming more like the rugby match Gareth showed and less like passing the baton in a relay, the brief follows us as a representation of what we do. It lives on the server long after we’re gone. It’s used to teach new people about where a brand has been and how the thinking has changed over time. I love old folders I have from working on projects with five or so versions of a brief, usually one marked _FinalFINAL.doc.
So I do think it’s important that we work on the blank document, despite the fact that the journey matters far more than what’s left behind. And even if there’s no such thing as a great brief, I find the iterative process of writing them and working through them with the rest of the team where the magic lies.
I have a few suggestions for this late coming brief of the future. But I’ll focus on one idea in this post which is to do with the way briefs are set up in the first place. There are generally several questions posed to the brief writer, and the brief writer ponders the answer. MRIs have been taken of how the brain responds to a fact versus how it responds to a question. Wouldn’t you know it – the fact lights up the reptilian part whereas the question gets the neurons firing up in front.
“Anything that’s engaging them where they have to think about their opinion will increase the depth of brain processing. A fact is very quickly compared and filed ‘where does that fit with my model’ whereas a question forces them to process, and wonder.” – Stephan Sands, Ph.D., Chief Science Officer, Sands Research
Is it arrogance, ignorance or selfishness that we planners hog all those brain stimulating questions for ourselves? Why don’t we pose new, interesting questions for others? We are trying to get new answers after all. And it’s been my experience that creative people like to solve problems. Crispin stumbled upon the power of questions when Alex Bogusky and Russ Klein from Burger King redesigned the Crispin brief first only for BK, but then it was rolled out to all CP+B clients. A well crafted question is at the heart of their very simple brief, asking some thing like “How do we get this kind of person to …?” I spent many hours debating the question to be asked in each brief with creatives, account directors, planners and clients. It is an excellent plannerly challenge to phrase the problem in a way that bakes in an insightful hook. Something that lets you feel the potential energy within the project. You’re inspired to get going when you read that kind of question.
It wasn’t until I stumbled onto the neuroscience stuff above that I started to understand why posing a question was such a good idea. It may not be proof positive, but it sure hasn’t hurt CP+B’s performance to flip the brief from statements to (at least one) questions.