The Ultimate Creative Brief Template (and How to Use it)
Projects in advertising, design and media usually start with a creative brief. When your client and you do a good job on the creative brief, the project is likely to become a success for both sides.
In this article we at Filestage introduce a simple yet powerful PowerPoint template that helps you formulate effective creative briefs. The template is tailored to the needs of professionals in advertising and media. On top of that, you’ll get a lot of information about how to write a creative brief and we’ll provide you with many examples.
You can download our creative brief template right here. (It’s a powerpoint file. Feel free to convert it into a pdf file after editing. That way, you can easily share the creative brief template pdf with your peers.) Please feel free to use it to improve or create your own creative brief:
A creative brief is a map you use to guide your team to success.
Starting any project without a brief isn’t impossible, but it can be very difficult to keep all your team members on the same page. A creative brief is how you understand your client. You can use it as a tool to get specific and clear ideas about your client’s requirements. It helps you to keep everyone focused on the final product your client wants.
A bad brief can easily be the downfall of any project. So save yourself the hassle and make one of your first steps in your client intake process to start a creative brief. It shouldn’t be a filing cabinet of information but a 1-2 page document which gives you all the essential information. Use it to get to know your client and allow them to fully think through what their own objectives and needs are.
Before we started to develop Filestage, we interviewed many professionals in the creative industry. One of our major findings was that a clear, creative brief is the most critical success factor for a project. When the brief is sloppy, creative projects have a high likelihood of failure.
As detailed in our creative brief article the quality of a brief is a major success factor for a creative project.
A good, creative brief presents a clear picture about your client. It helps you to understand his business, his customers and his goals.
Equally important, it forces your clients to take up position. You get them to think through their goals and expectations. This means you have a reliable commitment – something you can stick to.
“Having a precise brief is like having a solid fundament. There is no shilly-shally afterwards.”
A creative brief isn’t some huge task you should save only for big projects. For any marketing content, you need to write, whether that be for a client or for your own team, a brief can be useful. You might not have considered using creative briefs for all of your content but they can be useful to help you create anything from webpage copy to video projects.
Your client can assess their own objectives and help you to understand your target audience, deliverables, and your timeline. You need to know what a successful finished project would look like, which is where the creative brief comes in.
You might find you need lots of separate creative briefs but when it comes to in-house content you can use a creative brief like a style guide. When you’re producing regular blog articles or video content your brief can save you time and ensure consistent content.
A powerful brief should cover the following points:
What business is your client in?
Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
What makes your client’s service or product special?
What are the goals for the project? When is it a success?
Who are the customers of your client?
How is your client positioned compared to his competitors?
What should you deliver?
Tone of Voice
What is the company’s (or brand’s) personality?
Likes and Dislikes
What are examples of things your client likes and dislikes?
How much is your client willing to invest?
Timeline and Milestones
When is the final deadline? What are the milestones?
When designing a creative brief you don’t want to end up with a large folder full of information. What you want is a short and clear brief. Try to condense the information to a maximum of 1 or 2 pages. Structure it with bullet points for increased readability. Alternatively, you can create a PowerPoint presentation with one topic per slide.
1. Background Information
If you don’t know your client yet, it’s time to get to know him. What you need are some background details. What business is your client in? How does his market work? How well known is the brand?
2. Unique Selling Proposition (USP)
The USP tells you what’s special about the product or service of your client. What distinctions separate it from others? What does your client offer that is unique?
Go further than the marketing blah-blah and find out why people really buy your client’s product. Is it the price, the unique features or maybe the good reputation?
3. Clear Objectives
“The first step in exceeding your customer’s expectations is to know those expectations.”
One significant piece of information you need to get crystal clear is your client’s goals. You can only work in the interest of a client when you know what you are aiming toward. But having your clients nail down their goals isn’t easy.
I once made the mistake of not defining clear goals. I thought this would be an easy job. When your client tells you something like ‘we just want to give it a shot’ your alarm bells should ring. It looks like an easy job, but it’s definitely not.
Just because your client hasn’t shared any goals doesn’t mean he doesn’t expect you to perform. Companies always aim for a high return on investment. Even NGOs do. The problem is that you have no clue what they’re basing your performance on. Making your client happy will be a tough challenge.
So work out clear goals. Ask questions like: Why do you want to start this project? What do you want to achieve? How do you want to measure the success?
At the end of the day you want to come away with 1 to 3 sharp objectives.
4. Target Audience of Your Client
When you have the objectives ironed out, you need to know who should buy the fish.
Who are your client’s customers? What are their characteristics? What do they believe in?
To nail this down you should go through demographics and psychographics such as age, income and behavior. Ask about data from market research. Try to have a chat with some of your client’s customers. The more you know about their clients, the better.
Personas are fictional characters that represent the goals and behavior of your target group. It helps to see personas as archetypes of customers. Personas work best as short descriptions that include behavior patterns, goals, skills and attitudes. In the best case they include personal details that make them more realistic and sticky.
Maybe your client has already created personas. Great! But what if your client has no clue? In this case, you can play the role of good fairy. No costume required. Just ask your client what their ideal customer would be like. This is usually a good starting point.
5. Position and Major Competitors
Now it’s time to look at your client in relation to other organizations in his industry. What separates your client from their competitors? What’s their position? What is the position of its major competitors? How do they stick out?
Most clients have already prepared a SWOT analysis. It usually provides a good overview about the position. SWOT stands for Strengths, Weakness, Opportunities and Threads. Here is how to do a SWOT.
It happens often that clients already have ideas in their mind when contacting you. They think they need a modern website, an impressive corporate film or a hip Facebook page. Maybe they’ve seen certain approaches done by competitors, and they want to try it as well.
One of your jobs is to consult your client in the best possible way. Ask yourself if what the client wants is actually the right choice to reach their objectives. If there are better ways, be open about it. If you want a happy client, help them select the tools that bring the best results.
Choose the right tools to reach your client's objectives.
7. Tone of Voice
So you know what your client expects and what makes him unique. But what is your client’s tone of voice? Try to get a feeling of your client’s tonality and style.
The easiest way is to think of your client’s company or brand as a personality. If it were a person, what would they be like? Try to come up with about 3 strong and distinct values.
A good way to extract the values is to reference any marketing materials your client is proud of. Do they have a logo, brochures or design guidelines they are fond of? Try to analyze these materials at different levels. Do any of these marketing materials offer a valuable indicator for the tonality and the taste of your client?
You could also ask yourself how the relationship between your client and his customers looks like. Is it usually a one-time contact or a constant relationship? Do they communicate at a highly professional level or do they talk more casually?
My final piece of advice would be to be honest, keep it simple and don’t overthink your client’s tone of voice.
8. Likes and Dislikes
I often recognize that clients have trouble expressing what they like when it comes to things such as design, video or audio. This is particularly the case with clients who don’t work in marketing on an everyday basis.
But have no worries. A best practice approach is to ask your clients for samples they like and dislike. Let them pick YouTube videos, explore Behance portfolios and browse through Flickr galleries. Put together a mood-board and make a list of do’s and dont’s.
Having a whitelist and a no-go list gives you clear borders. It marks your corridor and makes it easier to have a starting point. Later on these lists will serve as a solid reference point when you need to defend things you’ve created or choices you’ve made. Last but not least, it prevents you from producing outcomes that nobody wants.
Having all other things in place, it should be easy to calculate costs, right? Actually, not yet. You need one more detail. Is your client looking for a Ferrari or for a cheap subcompact? Don’t be shy. Ask for a budget. That’ll make life easier for you.
A powerful strategy to find your client’s budget is presenting different budget options. Explain the pros and cons of each option, and how the result will differ depending on the investment. This encourages your client to tell you which budget option is the most realistic.
10. Timeline and Milestones
Sure, the job has to be done fast. But before you finally start, agree on a clear schedule. Ask for deadlines and definite milestones. State out what’s realistic. Let your client know about the process and points of no return.
After reading all this…
Not really sure where to start with your creative brief?
You can save time by using an online tool to create your form!
Creating your form online will give you a more professional and user-friendly final product. Using an online creative brief tool also means you can consolidate all your briefs into one convenient, shareable location.
Tools for Creating Creative Briefs
If you’re looking for a smooth and engaging interface then Typeform is perfect.
Easy to design, very customizable and simple integration with other programmes like MailChimp and Google Sheets. You can dazzle your clients with the free version but for a really great experience, you might want to consider upgrading to the Pro.
With over 200 templates Formstack will definitely have something suited to you. It’s a great solution no matter the size of your team. Their automatic workflows are also a very useful feature for saving you time and helping your team to be more efficient.
There are plenty of templates on Pipefy which you might find useful. We particularly like their ‘Design Thinking Template’. It’s even free! This template is useful to get every member of your team thinking about the various aspects of design. Pipefy is also an intuitive and connected platform so it’s easy to keep all your team onboard.
If you’re looking for something specifically designed for marketers then here it is! Simple is a brilliant briefing software which not only allows you to create and monitor briefs, they also work hard to help you improve them!
Choosing the perfect software and template for a creative brief is all well and good, but then you need questions. We’re not suggesting you ask every single one on our list but use these as ideas to help you think about the information you need from your clients.
- Collect all the basic information about the client’s company, size, sector etc.
- How well know is the client’s brand?
- What is the client’s budget for this project?
- What separates your client from their competitors?
- Where are they in relation to other competitors and market share?
- Understand their brand, what are the requirements of their brand?
- What is your client’s budget? (this might be for an entire project or cost per lead/sale)
Unique Selling Proposition
- Why would a customer choose this product over others?
- What does the client’s business offer customers?
- Is this product already performing well? Why?
- What problem does this product solve?
- What are the benefits of this product?
- You can’t succeed unless you know exactly what your client considers success so what are their objectives?
- What does the finished project look like?
- What does your client need from this project and what would they like to see?
- What are the key messages and points you need to get across?
- Who is buying the product? And who do you want to buy it? (consider creating a buyer persona)
- What are the important characteristics of our buyers?
- What should our audience feel when reading about this product?
- What messages and call to actions are consumers left with?
- What exactly are the elements the client needs for a finished project?
- List all the deliverables the client needs alongside their due dates.
- What tools is the client asking you to use? Are these the best tools for the job?
- Are there any similar projects your client likes or dislikes? Why?
- How will the client review your work? Are you using a content review system?
Tone and Style
- The style of any project is what ensures consistency. So what is the layout and style of previous similar projects?
- Is this a new project? In which case can you create a style which can be used again in the future?
If you start working without a clear brief, it’s like driving with broken headlights at night. Sure, it’s still possible, but you’d have to drive slowly, and chances are high that you’ll veer off the street.
We at Filestage know that it’s tempting to rush past the creative brief. Clients are usually itching to start right away. They don’t want to waste time with the planning stages. But investing time in a good brief protects you from encountering serious problems later on down the road. Believe me, it is an investment that will pay off.
Want to have every important point from our guide on how to write a creative brief at one glance? You can download your free checklist right here:
Rather than creating a creative brief process from scratch, you can save time and start with a template. Customizing a template allows you to create a more professional look for your creative brief, and it also provides you with quality tested questions.
Creative Brief Template Advertising by Milanote
Milanote offers a slick user-friendly design to help you organize all the elements of a creative brief. You can create private templates with various boards and hierarchies for different levels within your team. You can collect all of your requirements in one secure place which helps to speed up tasks and keep everyone in your team updated.
Creative Brief Template Graphic Design by Business Victoria
Templates don’t always need to be beautifully designed and flashy. Sometimes simple works best. This easy to fill out two-page template allows you to focus on the key elements of your creative brief without getting distracted.
Marketing Creative Brief Template by 99 Designs
This creative brief from 99 Designs helps you to think about various elements of your clients’ needs. From their color palettes to the style of their business. This is another simple template which won’t take you long to fill in, but you may find massively helpful in the long run.
Website Creative Brief Template by Tomango
This one doesn’s stick to the 1-2 page rule. However, it is a very comprehensive template. It has various sections you can cover like aims and marketing, which give you a more in-depth creative brief. You might find this is more suited for complex tasks or projects with new clients. Remember to only include the information which is relevant, so delete the questions and sections which aren’t useful for you.
Logo Creative Brief Template by Your Creative Junkie
Although this template has been designed for a specific goal, it´s actually a really useful tool for any creative brief. This brief has various sections so you can really get to grips with your client’s needs. It has an attractive design but is still a simple text template, so anyone can use it. The logo brief template is definitely a useful tool for creative projects.
Creative Agency Brief Template by HubSpot
The template from HubSpot aims to keep your team motivated with an attractive creative brief. If you’re looking for something to inspire your creative team while helping them to understand the project then this is a great choice.
Video Production Creative Brief Template by Studiobinder
This is a really nicely designed template with google sheets from Studiobinder. It was designed for video projects but it’s a good creative brief which you can easily repurpose. It allows you to get to the heart of your client’s needs and focus on tangible aims and objectives.
Social Media Creative Brief Template by Marketingmag
Rather than a simple template, marketing mag has provided a step by step guide to each question and how to fill out your brief. If you have lots of information this is a good place to take notes and start collecting your ideas. Every question is designed to have a long-form answer. So if you have a project with a lot of elements which need explaining then this is a great template.
Still not clear how to make your own kick-ass creative brief?
Have no worries because we’ve put together a selection of industry best practice creative briefs to help you!
Graphic Design Creative Brief Example
You can tell this one is for graphic designers. It’s bold and eye-catching. It’s also quick and simple to fill out.
Brand Creative Brief Example by ReThink Marketing
You can use a sample template like this one to think about the different sections you might want to include.
Web Design Creative Brief Example
This is a good example of a simple design brief which can be customized to suit your brand and style.
Website Creative Brief by HeliosDesign
Some creative briefs will need more information than others. Complex projects like building a website may need a more comprehensive brief to cover all the important aspects.
Video Creative Brief
Interactive briefs are not only easier to fill out but they also look more professional for your clients. Think about mixing up your questions between multiple choice and long form.
Logo Creative Brief by Logos by Nick
This one may seem a little basic but it’s still a useful design. Why overcomplicate things when you can keep it simple and specific?
Creative Brief Sample Ogilvy
This creative brief has an interesting approach to the questions. Your client might prefer filling in a template like this because it really asks them what they want from you.
Social Media Creative Brief
If you’re working with social media content then a brief like this one might be useful. Take a look at the various sections and see if they might be the right way to approach your next project.
Agency Creative Brief by Designtaxi
Another simple example of getting a client’s ideas across quickly. This is a well-suited template for smaller projects so you can ascertain the important information and get started.
Advertising Creative Brief Example
You need to prioritize the information in your brief. For example, here we have a good size section on the background, however, for your brief this section may only need to be a few lines. Put more time into the sections which contain elements your team needs. Background knowledge is useful, but ask yourself ´which information is relevant and essential to my team?’
PayPal Creative Brief Example
Paypal’s creative brief has a really nice design and flow to it. It’s clearly in line with their style and content. It’s also not too busy so you can scan the text to quickly remind yourself of the important information.
Reebok Creative Brief Example
This simple design helps to highlight the important messages in the creative brief. You might also find bullet-pointed lists useful for quickly get across information. Keep your design brief scannable with lists and sections like these.
Red Bull Creative Brief Example
Red Bull has got this brief right. A short introduction to the company and then straight into the objectives of the project.
Doritos Creative Brief
Doritos’ brief is actually fairly basic in terms of design but it comes with a lot of information. At the end of the day it’s only your team using this brief every day, so if you don’t want to put effort into the design of your brief that’s fine, just make sure it has all the information they need.
Nike Creative Brief
Another fairly simple design brief but choc-full of information. Nike also uses various infographics throughout the brief to help illustrate the background information on the company and their products. If you choose to create a simple creative brief, infographics are a great way of keeping it interesting and explaining difficult topics.
Practical Creative Brief PDFNobody likes creative briefs that are the size of a book. Click To Tweet
That’s why we designed a lean and straightforward creative brief template for you. It works as a common thread and prevents you from being too long-winded.
Each slide contains a major question you need to be able to answer clearly. Furthermore, you’ll find a short explanation within the notes section of each slide. This gives you further guidance.
Feel free to adapt our PowerPoint template to your own needs. Use your own logo or add slides where you want to bring in more details. After you worked it out, you can share your creative brief with your client and let them agree on it.
Template Use Cases
Our creative brief template can be used for different purposes. It can be used as:
- Marketing brief to start your marketing campaigns
- Brand brief / Branding brief to define your brand assessment
- Project brief to kickoff your projects
- Strategic brief to plan next strategic steps
- Event brief to start planning an event
- Logo brief to get started with the design process
- Company brief to learn more about a company
- Videographer brief to brief a producer
- Team brief to get your team aboard
- Media brief to start your media project
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