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Monday, October 5, 2015



“< = > !” means exactly what it says. Less is more! It’s so simple yet so very difficult to achieve. While virtually every marketer appreciates this equation intellectually few are able to put it into practice. Yet it is essential to adopt, and master, in the development of the creative brief if our advertising development process is going to yield “leadership communications” (i.e., those capable of generating the achievement of stretch business objectives).

“ > = < “

While we believe we can communicate more, as in multiple messages, experience shows we cannot compel when we do it. More is less. “More” puts a strain on the creative product and is, ultimately, a drain on conveying the strategic message. The resultant communication product, regardless of whether it is video (as in, but not limited to, a TVC) or text (as in, but not limited to, a print ad or viz-aid), is likely to fail in registering with customers and compelling them to action.

Where “ > = < “

There are many places in the creative brief where more is less. First, examine the elements in your creative brief. There are elements in it that are probably non-essential to providing guidance and direction to the creative team. One such element found in many creative briefs is the so-called “business situation” which deals with category growth, brand development, market share swings, etc. None of which has an impact on the development of a campaign idea. What’s the big deal? It’s an energy drain that dilutes the focus from what’s really important such as the discovery of a “legitimate” and “productive” customer insight.


Next look to the definition of the target-customer. We want more customers. We need them to achieve ambitious business growth objectives. Consequently the target is defined broadly, so broadly it dilutes our messaging. Or we identify multiple targets confounding our ability to connect with any one effectively.


Within the target definition check the target-customer’s needs. They provide the basis for the benefit. Both needs and benefits are inextricably linked. Benefits payoff needs. How many “needs” do you count? Two? Three? Four? It is rarely one. Many of these will be generic needs. How might we marketers possibly hope to payoff so many needs in our communications?


The next logical place to follow then is the benefit, which we refer to as the “key thought” in our Essential Creative Brief. This area of the brief is typically loaded with multiple benefits. Not one benefit, but multiple benefits. It is not uncommon to find three or more benefits that the marketer is intent on communicating. While you may be able to say each benefit in the communications they will not register with the target-customer in such a way as to compel the achievement of the communication behavior objective.


Many creative briefs, both agency and client briefs, contain multiple foci for the advertising message. We’ve already mentioned the only one marketers need, the “key thought.” But the brief may also contain the “focus of sale,” “the key takeaway of the target-customer” and “how we want the customer to think about the brand” to name just a few. Which one should the agency choose? Which one should the myriad of client managers use to assess the creative work? The fact of the matter is that each individual manager will choose a different focal point. These different foci will frustrate the entire development process as no communication can address them all.


Checkout the reason-why (or also referred to as the “reason-to-believe”) support for the benefit. Marketers will stash product benefits in this section of the creative brief out of ignorance regarding what makes for a legitimate reason-why or, perhaps even, subterfuge. If there are already two benefits contained within the key thought these marketers might throw a third into the reason-why section of the brief. More benefits, more burden on the creative product to do its job in stimulating customer behavior consistent with the achievement of a SMART communication behavior objective.


Here’s one most marketers are not even aware of checking, the “strategic triangle.” This is the linkage among the target-customer needs, the customer insight and the key thought. Even in those rare instances where the key thought is single-minded the marketer needs to step back to ensure that the creative brief is single-minded. If each element in the strategic triangle is not linked then the brief is not single-minded. Needs point in one direction while the customer insight another and the key thought yet a third. It’s more than anyone can deal with.


This last one is obvious but overlooked, “dual briefs.” The client prepares one creative brief, which is, in turn, translated by the agency into their creative brief format. Often time the client never even sees this agency brief. Change one word or even the punctuation and we change the meaning of what we intend to communicate. Dual briefs means there are two, not one but two, sets of direction for creative development. Above all we must speak with one voice in providing direction.

Boats & Helicopters:

1.  Adopt the Essential Creative Brief – It contains everything you need and nothing else. If you want information about the Essential Creative Brief reply to this issue of DISPATCHES and we will email it to you.


2.  Make Choices – It’s all about making choices. We can’t do everything for everyone so choose what you want to achieve with whom and with what message.


3.  Take leadership – It’s not the nature of committees or groups of people to choose. Instead the committee, in the spirit of being inclusive, will allow multiple potential directions to swell. Getting to leadership communications requires leadership thinking and direction. It takes a leader to sort through the multiple potential directions and choose the one that will be the key thought for the communications.


4.  Let’s have adult supervision – Senior managers should know from their august positions within the organization and years of experience that < =  >. If marketers are not making the tough choices in winnowing the direction then senior managers need to step-in and ensure it happens. Unfortunately, senior managers often are culprits in adding more messages to, rather than cutting them from, the creative brief.


5.  Co-create one brief, one mind – The client and agency should collaborate in the development of one creative brief. One mind should be the natural result of this very act of collaboration.


6.  Speak-up – Everyone should speak-up against adding more. The last bastion of defense should be the agency. Let the client know that they cannot communicate everything effectively. You might receive some grief (depending upon the way you serve it, and the client) but it will not be half as bad as the grief “more” will wreck on the creative team, creative process and product, and ultimately the client-agency relationship.


While we emphasize < = > and many marketers understand it intellectually few possess the skill, discipline and/or leadership ability to make it happen. Which one are you?

< = > ! Enough said.
Richard Czerniawski and Mike Maloney


Richard Czerniawski

430 Abbotsford Road

Kenilworth, Illinois 60043

tel 847.256.8820 fax 847.256.8847

reply to Richard: or



Mike Maloney

1506 West 13th

Austin, Texas 78703

tel 512.236.0971 fax 512.236.0972

reply to Mike: or

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