05 Jun

Attacking a brief

I got caught cold the other day.
I was asked, in interview, how I approach a brief.
I stopped and thought and realised that I never really think about it – I just ‘do’.
… but I had to give an answer and ‘I just crack on’ didn’t seem to cut it.


Firstly, I read the whole thing through – usually 3 – 4 pages – front to back.

Only a few lines are going to be relevant – the salient points – so I highlight those.
I also look at the proposition and mull it over.

I then interrogate the brief, looking for any missing information. If I find any, or have questions, I go back to the client/account handler/planner to fill in the gaps.

If the brief includes a case study, as many charity briefs do, I read it thoroughly and work out whether it fits the brief or whether it seems shoehorned in. If needs be, I’d request another case study.

I consider whether it’s a conceptual brief, to be channel neutral, or whether it’s a pure get-your-head-down-and-write brief.

If it’s conceptual, I start brainstorming – writing down the proposition in the middle of an A3 page and going out from there with all things related to that/the brand, then lateral thoughts off of that.

I then look to come up with 3 – 5 ideas from these lateral thoughts and 3 – 5 executions for each idea.

If I’m working with an art director, I’ll come back together with them and we’ll throw all of our ideas into the ring, bounce off each other and come to an agreement as to what might work and what definitely doesn’t.

If it’s a pure writing brief, then I’ll just get plotting – working out what goes where and e.g where to get an ‘ask’ or call to action in (usually no later than the third paragraph in).

Once I’ve got the nuts n bolts down, I’ll join back up with an art director/designer to see if we can ‘pretty up’ my words or pull out a visual concept from the long copy.

…and that’s about it – certainly at the start of the brief.

I’m hoping that my way makes sense to anybody reading, but I’d love to know – what’s your approach? Does it differ from mine? How do you attack a brief?
Let me know, below.

Screenshot 2021-06-05 at 13.26.35

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