No single act allows an individual to experience unfiltered agony and ecstasy quite like working with a creative team.
A creative team’s job is to find out-of-the-box solutions to often stale and unsuccessful problems that have previously plagued either a business or a brand. Look behind any brand’s ‘success story’ and you’ll usually find a great team, a group of passionate individuals who raised each other’s game to unseen heights.
In advertising, the group that’s charged with ensuring that creative success are the planners.
Every agency defines a planner’s role slightly different, but the main responsibilities can be boiled down to two key components:
1) identifying a customer insight
2) making that insight actionable for creatives
Defining a consumer insight requires you to conduct frequent qualitative and quantitative research – both secondary and primary – trying to uncover some nugget of ‘universal truth’ that helps breathe new life into the brand, consumer, and market.
The majority of insights are born at least in part from numbers and data points gained through research. But these are worthless in the long haul. To a creative team – raw numbers and statistics mean jack-shit. The mistake a lot of planners make is that they fail to humanize the numbers, not only for creative teams but also for themselves. Humanizing anything ( especially numbers ) makes it more relatable and personable; putting a human touch behind a set of numbers may just allow you to connect with your consumer in a way you never expected.
In addition to being relatable – insights should be unexpected. They should awaken a need, a desire to re-examine the standards and conventions that we’ve constructed. Sometimes these insights can uncover a clear point-of-difference in similar products. Other times, it can dramatically alter the momentum of a category or group. And with a bit of luck, it can fundamentally change the way a group of people think or even act.
The purpose of an insight – that ‘ah-ha’ moment – is to provide a clear and simple answer to the problem that started you on this journey.
But what happens next? After uncovering one of these precious gems, how do you leverage it?
Once you’ve identified the right insight, it’s time to make it actionable or usable for your creative team. With the right ‘nugget of truth,’ brands can rise to unimaginable heights.
A game-changing insight combined with a fumbled delivery is worthless though. When it comes to your presentation, context matters. A great insight, a simple human truth, can get lost if it’s not represented in a contextual way to inform the creative team on the importance of what you’ve found. That’s why building a great creative brief is so critical.
When it comes to drafting a creative brief, there is not one universal standard. Formats and titles change from agency to agency. What doesn’t change though is the meat. There are five key points that a creative brief needs to address, to ignite the fire in the eyes of the creative team:
The Challenge: Articulate the overall scope and purpose. What are the high-level objectives for this project? What are the limitations that they will have to work around? There is an absolute positive correlation between how relevant / relatable your information is and the quality of work that’ll be produced. There’s no magic formula though, just trust your instinct.
The Background: Use research to provide an immersive understanding of the culture surrounding the consumer, brand, and marketplace. By providing a rock-solid profile around these three groups, you are able to set up the creative team to easily digest and immediately understand the cultural significance of your insight.
The Observations: Ask questions. Ask more questions. About everything. Insights are hiding everywhere. And once you’ve found your answer, your insight, make sure it’s effectively communicated. Otherwise all is for naught. Use metaphors, figures of speech, or other avenues to drive the insight home. Make it relatable to your consumer, the market, and the initial objective. The worst possible response after presenting an insight is, “ok…so, what?” Insights are uniquely universal, so present it as such.
The Solution: Construct a unique strategy that works to address the insights that were discovered. Whether it’s a master brand strategy or a siloed strategy one-off-product strategy, it must resonate. Not just with the consumer though, with the creative teams as well. The solution you present should holistically address and solve the challenge that you ultimately laid at the feet of your creative team.
The Excitement: Inspire the creative team to be bold, mischievous, and original. Inspire them to take risks, to play with the cultural tension you’ve uncovered. Inspire them to push the limits of the sandbox that is their imagination. Inspire them to look past the numbers to see the intrinsic opportunity that awaits. This is probably the most important factor – excitement. Without this, why would anyone care?
Agony and ecstasy dance interchangeably throughout this entire process. They often take turns, but are sprinkled throughout every step. When the insight is pure, brilliant, and simple, you’ll sense a level of euphoria that’s unmatched.
Set up the insight from the beginning and you’ll make everyone care.