“Adam, Eve…enjoy this verdant utopia. But be careful, there are rules to follow. I expect you to behave appropriately. Failure to do so will have catastrophic consequences. Original sin will be inextricably tied to all of man. No more eternal life. My wrath etc. and so on. K bye.”

Not to put words into God's mouth, or offend anyone, but industry needs must. Imagine pre-fig leaf Adam after such a conversation. The inner conflicts – free will versus pre-determinism, the unknown against the known, actions juxtaposed with consequences. What to do? There is inferred purpose without clarity. Expectation without regulation. Ambiguity and information.

I'm sure all this pondering helped Adam work up an appetite. Those apples look great. And by serendipitous happenstance there is an amicable, yet slightly maleficent, looking serpent nearby. Surely it can help. Everything is coming up Adam.

To cut to the proverbial chase - there was no definitive instruction, no mandatories, no guidelines. The puzzle was jumbled in this imagined scenario. Yet God had clear expectations that, if unmet, would lead to dire consequences. Shifting into a more familiar lexicon – there was no brief.


A Brief Musing_1


As a Western-Eastern Hybrid, I have experienced the advertising, marketing and design spheres on both sides of the planet. In the West the brief is sacrosanct. A holy document that has been filtered through many minds, vigorously and voraciously. With client and agency refining every word to extract diamonds from a mass of carbon data. As for Sri Lanka (yes I am generalising here for rhetorical purposes) the brief is fairly non-existent. A reclusive and ethereal document. Occasionally coming out of the shadows to forage for berries. Whispered about in hushed tones around boardrooms. The stuff of myth. An advertising Yeti.

Creating without a brief is like staring into the existential void. Who am I? What is my purpose? Why am I here?

I cannot count the number of times that jobs have come in with no brief. My brain absorbs the scenario - the imagined vacuous hole manifests. I fall through the looking glass. Perhaps I am being too dramatic. I get snippets. A few sentences in an email. Fragmented information on Whatsapp. Even emojis are used, stretched to their limit of meaning. But this is no way to work. No way to deliver insightful and accurate creative. And definitely no way to ensure efficiency and economy in execution.

Without a client brief, any agency brief is subjective abstraction. Degrees of separation lead to incongruence. What I create through a process of rationalisation will never quite match client expectation. My colour blue isn't your colour blue syndrome. I know the thought skipping through your labyrinthine mental chambers. Stop moaning about the situation and change it through action. Extract the nectar from the inert client flower. I have tried. Believe me. 


A Brief Musing_2


Many hours were spent in the lab cooking up multiple brief types. Each one crafted to the lowest common multiple - all in easy to follow templates. A client need simply fill in the blanks. Easy enough right? You would have thought I had asked for a 10,000-word thesis on the validity of String Theory. I wouldn't say it's like flogging a dead horse. It's more like running over a dead horse, reversing back over it, then jumping out the whip and bludgeoning said deceased equine with a lead pipe only to finally pull out the Drako and light up the flattened horsey corpse execution style. 

Much like Herpes, the ‘Why?' appears and disappears. Taunting my consciousness. Of course in reality there are clients here that send client briefs. Perhaps, as I scrap and struggle to push my own agency offering, I am not exposed to the marketing prowess of the upper echelon corporates. Is it client laziness? Maybe. Could it be that clients simply don't have a clear idea of the outcome in mind? The logic here is tenuous at best, the scathing rant-fuelled ‘this-isn't-what-I-want' email testament to the client's firm vision…in their head anyway.

The ‘Why?' has many forms. Yet these all feel symptomatic rather than causal. If we take a step back another kernel of truth appears. 

The lack of brief symbolises a lack of understanding. Local clients don't have much knowledge of how advertising comes into being. In their heads it's all wacky hipster creatives, hashtags, astro-turf carpets, agency pool tables and pretentious terminology ‘Blue Sky Thinking' anyone? Creative is plucked out of the air. A mysterious something from nothing moment – the conceptual Big Bang. This couldn't be further from the reality.  


A Brief Musing_3


The conceptual process is based on research, rigour, organised executional mechanics, hierarchy and process. For the most part, ideas do not pop in out of existence like matter and antimatter particles. They emerge from ritual. Structural behavioural patterns within regulated, briefed frameworks. These parameters act as organisational filters, decoding the chaos and reigning in wild minds. Each step of regulation narrows down the vast expanse of creative possibility. We get closer to a specific goal - the proposition. This one nugget contains client need, objective and key consumer insight. The Holy Trinity.


A Brief Musing_4

So concepts ultimately come from a data-molded sphere. The brief is, in essence, the most fertile field to exploit within the infinite patchwork of cerebral countryside. I am not saying that the brief stifles creativity. Within that field there is no limit to the imagination. Just don't push through the hedgerow and try to touch a cow's udders - much to a client's dismay. Stay within the given confines. Stay on brief.

To summarise the brief is everything. A self-contained eco system possessing all the approved mandatories, information and thinking to stimulate the creative act. It ensures we are all on the same page. In the rabbit warren of contemplation, it's easy to go off-piste. So we refer back to the brief to check were we are. It is the measuring stick for whether an idea lives or dies.

Ranting on the pedestal is all good and well. However it is an exercise in futility without some semblance of a solution. For me education is the key. As an agency, it is our responsibility to take clients into our world. Show them the intricacies and nuances of the conceptual process – the tools we use and the steps we follow. The brief is the nucleus of the creative cell and we highlight its importance. If they have a client brief process in play already, we can tweak, improve or refine. If not we can help to get one done.

Proactivity is the name of the game. Yes it might be dirty. Yes it might be like pulling teeth. But it is a struggle that will pay dividends in the long run.