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I’ve lived in Melbourne twice in my life and visit most years. One thing I quickly learned was there are only four colours worn by the locals (apart from their AFL team’s). It doesn’t matter what time of year, it’s always the same four – they are:

  • Black
  • Black
  • Black
  • Black


I was reminded of this when teaching the Principles of Advertising at university recently. I used an example for the students I developed years ago when training young advertising executives on the job.

There are only four essential things you need to develop brilliant creative. Without these four you will fail dismally. Yet you’d be surprised how many digi-kids don’t use them. They just use hope as a strategy for producing ideas.

So here they are dear reader – the four essentials to brilliant creative work:

  • The brief
  • The brief
  • The brief
  • The brief


Without a clear brief you are groping in the dark. You cannot work on the theory of “you’ll know it when you see it” when it comes to recognising a good idea – and usually without any connection to long term strategy or brand direction.

The obvious benefit of a written brief is that it eliminates the danger of interpretation which occurs with a verbal or no brief.


Here’s another example I developed years ago for teaching briefing. I’m told it’s been used by others who also teach. Clear your mind for a few seconds. Now, what do you visualise when you read the word “rabbit?

You obviously have an image of a rabbit in your mind’s eye? Is it white, brown, grey or chocolate? Hopping or sitting still? Nibbling on food? Being cuddled or sitting in the cross hairs of a gun sight? Maybe you’re a Monty Python fan and visualise a killer rabbit? Whatever you’re imagining, it will be very different from other people’s interpretation.


A brief gives you direction. It’s your creative road map designed to save you wasting time going down dry gullies. Both David Ogilvy and his creative protege Norman Berry have been attributed to stating the creative ode: “Give me the freedom of a tight brief.”  This has nothing to do with budgie smugglers BTW.


Give me the freedom of a tight brief…

The tighter the brief the more relevant creative options you can create. Whereas a woolly brief (or no brief) sends you in too many irrelevant directions and wastes time, money and resources. That’s why a written brief, accompanied by visual stimuli remove confusion caused by interpretation.

My old boss David Ogilvy stated “search the world and steal the best.” But he meant it for inspiration, not plagiarism. Yet so many digital marketers use search engines as their creative resource. They enter “best <insert category> advertising” into Google and then copy what they can. This is not a bad idea as the starting point for inspiration, but if you don’t have a brief, how will it fit your brand? And there are limits to how often an idea or execution can be copied.

Every agency has their own version of a briefing document – if you need one, contact me and I’ll send you an example.

Then again, you could just search Google for “world’s best creative brief”…

creative brief