Actually, let’s just get it done.

Instead of doing it in three successive posts, I’m going to wrap up round one of the creative brief series today, so we can move on. Round two will start Thursday, and it will be different from this first series.

For anyone just jumping into this series today (or new here, in general), a little background and orientation to the work:

The creative brief, used in advertising/creative agencies to frame a campaign, promotion, etc., drives the creative process to address a specific, defined problem. The written brief is a framework of commonly accepted pieces of information that can bridge divergent, subjective opinions and perspectives, ultimately leading to better work.

This tool can be applied to countless other situations, outside of ad agency confines, which is why I believe it’s worth time to learn the skill. In my experience teaching this particular approach, I’ve observed that anyone can learn the technique.

The guide we’re using for developing this skill is a curriculum I wrote when I taught creative strategy workshops for trade show and event managers from around the world. That was 20 years ago, but I find that the general idea is just as timely and relevant today.

I’ve been doling out the individual sections of the brief, one by one, for a week (here’s the link to the first post). I was going to continue that one-by-one rollout today, tomorrow, and Wednesday, with a change coming on Thursday. But what I know, both in general and about myself, is that Sunday night plans often get derailed once the week is actually underway.

So today we’ll cover the last three sections of the brief: Frame of Reference, Executional Considerations, and Mandatories. They’re all three pretty short and straightforward, and they kind of go together anyway.

Frame of Reference provides a snapshot of the environment in which your campaign (promotion, project) will be evaluated by your target audience. What other choices or options would your target audience have? Let’s think of a super easy example like dish soap. If you’re trying to promoted and sell a new brand of dish soap, then your Frame of Reference section would list competing brands (and details, like their slogans or other top-of-mind attributes that would come into play). Frame of Reference would also include the environment surrounding the products, which could include stores/store aisles, online/DTC offerings, and boutique markets.

Back to my weekly dinner example (which seems a stretch for this work, I know, but I’m going to tie it up in the end), the Frame of Reference might include:

  • Eating out at a restaurant
  • Eating with friends (instead of staying home with family)
  • Skipping dinner
  • Grazing for dinner without ever actually sitting down to the table
  • Fictional (like, TV show) family style dinners
  • Families we know who either do or do not share a weekly special meal together

The Frame of Reference sets the stage, in a way. Clear enough? Great; let’s move on to the last two sections, Executional Considerations and Mandatories.

Executional Considerations describe (or list) the literal environment in which the final work will be performed. In my weekly dinner example, Executional Considerations might include:

  • Our kitchen table, and the fact that we often do laundry on Sundays, and there’s often laundry on the table on Sundays, and for us to have dinner together, at the table, on a Sunday night will require getting the laundry folded and put away beforehand.
  • Our Sunday schedules and existing commitments (for example, I have a standing call every other Sunday, 3:30-5:00 p.m.).
  • The dogs.
  • Farmers market on Saturdays (meaning, the menu could, or could not, pay attention to those seasonal offerings).

Mandatories are the hard and fast rules. If someone in my family had food allergies, for example, then a Mandatory would detail the ingredient restrictions. If there were rules or requirements that I might choose to impose (e.g., everyone in the household at the time must be present and participate in whatever we ultimately decide to do in this creative dinner endeavor), then they would be listed in this section.

In a business setting, as a guide to creative work, the Mandatories would most likely include corporate brand standards and graphics requirements (or restrictions). (For example: “The promotion must use the full-color logo, and the color scheme of the materials must match approved, existing brand guidelines.”)

My advice on the Mandatories section is to be clear but to resist being overbearing or overly controlling. Consider very carefully what is actually required and what might be a personal preference.

OK, that’s it. Yes, really. I’m posting the template, below, one more time. In round two there will be a different version of this same template, and the work will seem similar but also very different. That’s coming on Thursday. There will likely be some filler in between, depending on how the week unfolds.

Happy Monday. Pray for the world. The whole world.

P.S. If you want to go back and review the individual sections, here’s an outline, with links, to each one: