Better Products and Relationships Begin With Better Briefing

By Wednesday June 22nd, 2011

When you quote a project, you square away its main objectives and project goals. But what about the details? Digging deeper in that initial phase can improve final product and client relationships.

I just read this article: Advertising Age – Marketers, Quit Blaming Your Agency — It’s Your Brief at Fault

It got me thinking about something that plagues all creative agencies.

Even if you don’t read the article, you can tell by the title, that I’m inclined to agree with its conclusion. Biased as I may be, the article brings up a great point. It’s something that we as an agency run into a lot, but it’s something that if properly addressed, would likely make all marketers and agencies much happier.

A Quick Note
For the purposes of this article, I’m sticking to the terminology from the Ad Age article. A marketer is any business that hires an agency. An agency is a group like us, whether it’s web design, print design, advertising, marketing, or anything else. The agency is hired to do creative work for the marketer.

Back to the Issue at Hand
The issue is communication when starting a campaign or project. When you quote a project, you square away its main objectives. You talk about campaign or project goals. You figure out a scope of work- how difficult, how time-consuming, how costly. The problem is that this process is usually led by the business people within an agency and the business-minded marketers. These personalities are great with the big picture, and hopefully they have the experience and expertise to kick off a creative project.

When the project starts, however, the creatives (creative diretors, art directors, designers) are left to take care of the details. In fact, they’re left with literally every single last detail. This is where a project can start to get away from the marketer. This is where the agency is left to make decisions and guess at what the client (the marketer) really wants. Marketers have overarching goals in mind, and they know “exactly” what they want. But without communicating in detail ahead of time, they often receive a product that’s out of line with their expectations. This surely gets ironed out in revisions, but it can sour a relationship and slow down a project.

Who’s Really to Blame?
In the article, Casey Jones (of BriefLogic, formerly of Enfatico and Dell) lays blame to the marketers, but this situation is truly no one’s fault. Sure, marketers need to do a better job briefing agencies, but agencies need to ask for, if not demand, better briefings. Not to mention, we agencies could facilitate more organized and detailed discovery meetings. We could lay out problematic questions, answers, or directions ahead of time. Truthfully, we see red flags a mile away, but usually due to time constraints, budget constraints, or general laziness (not in our case, of course), agencies ignore these issues and push forward with whatever we think is best.

The reason I’m compelled to comment on this topic is that both marketers and agencies should consider this issue and try as best we can to remedy it. I have a hunch that marketers don’t even realize that we can’t read minds, and when they blame us for a product they weren’t expecting, they’re perfectly justified to complain if they don’t even know they could’ve done more on their end.

We’ve learned over time that small problems only get bigger. Relationships are tricky, and any time you can alleviate pain points or bring something up early, it’s in everyone’s best interest to do so. We’re all just trying to do good business, after all.

A Final Thought
So consider yourself warned, marketers, and give more detailed briefs!
And agencies, stop acting like everyone knows our business and processes as well as we do!

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About the Author

Drew Thomas is the CTO and co-founder of Brolik. He oversees Brolik's technology projects, including Leverage, Brolik’s proprietary technology platform. Drew spends most of his free time on side projects and prefers to blend work and life into a balanced, enjoyable experience. He lives in Austin, TX.
Twitter: @drewbrolik
LinkedIn: Drew Thomas
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