Friday, October 21, 2016

When briefs become briefer and deadlines sound the death knell

Gone are the days when advertising held a charm for creatives working day and night to crack the big idea. In the instant coffee, instant info and instant everything era, ads also are expected to be delivered instantly.

Most briefs that come our way are adhoc, thought out at the spur of the moment, perhaps when the client came across some fanciful ad in the morning papers, or perhaps when the team got a dressing down for not achieving sales target, or perhaps just to keep the retainer agency busy, ‘coz they would have to pay anyway!

Whatever the reason, the all important brief which was once considered as the foundation of any ad / creative campaign that sparked off great ideas and strategies, has now been trimmed down to a no-frills no-nothing one line telephone / email brief. And this brief sometimes comes with reference to a trail of internal mails, each proving the hierarchy of the people in conversation, with changing offers and objectives, some even suggesting headline and copy with a ‘PS:’ to creatively tweak it as appropriate (but to be read as ‘don’t you dare change a word’). Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you get a brief document that looks very professional but is based on a standard brief format, meaning only the product name and deadline changed visibly, but the communication message / objective remained more or less the same.

Coming to the deadline, we’ve always heard of the “yesterday” deadlines, which has perhaps existed since the beginning of advertising, but now our brethren in the client organisations seem to take it to heart. A brief almost always comes only in the evening, and the deadline is almost always ‘A.S.A.P’ (As Soon As Possible) which has graduated to ‘By EoD’ (End of Day), since “as soon as possible” would again give a free hand to the creative agency.

Fact is, such short deadlines don’t really result in ads / creatives being done, approved and released within a short period. It only denies creatives the time and space to think and work creatively. Then there are a million drafts, back & forth iterations and so on, which finally results in substandard work. This eventually takes longer than the deadline, as changes are again arbitrary and at the spur of the moment, which results in more time than the actual time taken for conceptualising, copy, design & artwork.

The produced work is more often a mix and match of options, with client ideas imposing itself on the final creative, and agency a mere bystander or witness to the mayhem and cacophony in between. Why then are agencies held accountable if the ad doesn’t kick up any dust or make any noise (not even a whisper) among the TG (Target Group)?

I hear the death knell, so I got to wind this up. So I leave you with these grave emotions of an adman at the brink of madness with briefer briefs and yesterday deadlines!


SG said...

Interesting post Liked it. I understand your situation. And, I sympathize with you. I am not in the advertising field. So pardon me and correct me if I say something stupid. To me, a creative brief is more or less a contract. It should be precise and easily understood. In addition, I personally, like the brief to be in just one page. My question is what you think should be the length of a brief.

RGB said...

Hi SG, glad you liked the post. To give you an insight on how it works in the ad world, a creative brief is not a contract but a client briefing for a particular campaign that states the purpose, objective, target customers, primary & secondary communication message, reasons to buy, call to action, deliverables, competitors etc apart from details of the product/service. It's usually a 1-2 page document. But sadly, these days the brief is reduced to just a 1-line description and that too, as vague as it can get!

Insignia said...


I dont know the background that goes into making an ad. As a layman; I only judge based on the outcome. I find most ads these days are senseless and sleazy. Guess the creative juice is dry. Or perhaps its driven by all that you said. No enough time for creatives and their idea thrown into a dustbin.

But one thing I found common RGB is such hastiness to wrap up without putting in thought and quality has come to exist in all domains. Its sad.

Haddock said...

True, such short deadlines cannot create good things. They end up with something made in a hotch potch way.

Ellen said...

So that explains the mediocre results I see on TV. In fact, I turn it off when the ads come in. They can be so painfully boring. With the exception of a few. It's quite apparent though who puts in a good dose of authentic creative juices into the project.

I like your piece. It gives me quite a good bird's eye-view of things happening behind-the-scenes, especially in this case.

By the way, thank you for dropping by the blog. It was great seeing you again!

Have a great day. God bless you and your family.

Joseph Pulikotil said...

Hello, greetings and good wishes.

Fantastic post with great insight into advertising business. The world has become very competitive and many customers take advantage of the situation. They want great ads within the shortest possible time spending the least amount of money. This surely gives jitters to creative people in the advertising dept. How can anyone produce great ads in End of Day time schedule. Ultimately, something is cooked up in the name of great ad.

Perhaps the marketing people are to blame for this. To achieve their targets they might finalise orders with many strings attached. Usually, the creative people will have to sweat it out under great pressure to produce the desired results.

High pressure has become a part and parcel of many jobs. Meet the dead line or be fired. Well, very few people are strong enough to withstand the tension.

Excellent post. I enjoyed reading it.

Shilpa Garg said...

I have been on the other side, was in Brand management for a decade, so can relate to this completely! I know how the sudden meetings result in new brand campaigns and how the agencies are pushed to follow the 'creative idea' shared by the top boss. And the deadlines... Sometimes, I would laugh at myself for talking about such unrealistic time frame to work on. Good to see you back, RGB :)

Bikram said...

Ho about I need this YESTERDAY :)


RGB said...

@Insignia, Certainly is sad...The demise of quality in most domains; where pressure and time seem to rule the roost, rather than creativity and quality! Thanks for sharing your views.

@Haddock, True that!

@Ellen, Most creative ideas can perhaps be found in unpublished work of almost all agencies and also in personal portfolios. If you're lucky to have a client that appreciates a good idea, then it sees the light of day. The brilliant ads are the lucky few that have survived the test of a client's judgement. Glad you liked the post. Always a pleasure to have you here!

@Joseph Pulikotil, Glad that you liked the post. Absolutely agree with your views.

@Shilpa Garg, So you've been on the other side, the side I've been bitching about? Ha ha! Glad to be back, though it's just a flashing appearance I admit!

RGB said...

@Bikram, Thanks for dropping by! As far as blogs are concerned, I just can't seem to meet the "yesterday" deadline...phew!