The Seven Essentials of the Direct Marketing Creative Brief

If you plan and evaluate direct marketing efforts, then you know the challenge of pulling together the essential information for your creative assignment.

Due to the scope of the creative brief required for direct marketing projects, I see the creative brief as a melding of the marketing plan with the creative strategy.

For that reason, the creative director should not be the primary point person for writing the creative brief. That duty falls upon the marketers of the organization.

There are literally hundreds of creative brief formats out there. But they all tend to miss at least one of the essentials parts that can make the difference between success and failure.

Let's start with the characteristics of strong direct response creative briefs.

Effective briefs are:
• Clear about the objective
• Focused and direct
• Logical and brutally truthful
• Rich with emotional insight
• In sync with the overall brand
• The result of information provided by the client, the agency team and any primary/secondary research available about the product or service

Weak briefs are:
• Provided to the creative team without an offer or lack guidance for the development of a compelling offer
• Preoccupied with the client's needs rather than those of the audience
• Incomplete and unconvincing
• Missing concrete and factual support for the claimed product benefits

Looking at the contents rather than the format, here are the four essentials of the DM Creative brief.

1. Get a handle on the product or service benefits.

- What are the benefits offered by this product?
- What is the primary benefit?
- Is there a unique selling proposition?
- What do present customers say about this product?
- What do third parties who are respected by the audience say about this product?
- How does your product compare to competing products or services?
- Compile printed and electronic literature that may already exist about the product.

2. Share the objective (s) and what we have to do to win? For example...

- Generate actual appointments from key businesses.
- Beat an existing control.
- Enroll new members.
- Convert existing leads to buy the product "off-the-page".
- Remind lapsed members of a deadline for an existing offer.
    Note: I like to share any known response rates generated by past efforts telling the creative team what success looks like. Quantify the objectives.

3. Who are the targeted prospects or customers and what makes them tick?

- Share the list information if it is a mailing going over data contained in the file that can be used for personalization.
- Provide any available psychographic and demographic information about the target market (s).
- Go into the research of why people buy and do not buy the offered product.   
- Get deeply into the emotional motivators of why the audience might buy or not buy the product.
- Summarize key research information about the customer or prospect audience.
- Provide any relevant testimonials or third party endorsements.
- Based on the audience descriptions, what tone should the creative take on?

4. What is the call to action or offer for this particular communication?

- What offers have worked in the past?
- What offers have not worked in the past?
- How much can we afford to spend on the offer based the allowables for this product or service?
- What other offers are worthy of a test?
- What offers have worked for competitors or in other industries to the target audience?

5. How does the target audience view the offered product in the competitive environment?

- Describe any notable messages/content from competitor advertising.
- If possible, give the creative team a comparison chart pitting the offered product against the competition.

6. What are the executional mandatories or "givens"?

- Includes any regulatory or legal copy requirements.
- Provide any graphic guidelines, logos and other graphic support as required for the creative execution.
- Review any verbiage or language that must not be used in the copy.

7. What is the executional budget for this creative effort?

- Provide production limits that take into account the allowable cost per lead or cost per sale.
- Provide direct mail costs limits based on the allowables for any direct mail rollouts.
- Give comparable budgets for online, DRTV, radio or print advertising at the onset of the creative effort.

What other elements would you add to this list that I omitted? How do you deal with clients who cannot provide the specifics needed for your campaign to succeed? Do you turn down the project? Do you go with what you have and cross your fingers warning the client that they need to compile more information for the future? As a client, how do you deal with pesky creative resources that never seem to have enough information?

Posted on April 27, 2008 and filed under Direct Response Creative.