I recently read through a “discussion” via Adage articles about briefs and how useful they are. You can read the articles here and here. More interesting than the articles though, were the comments and the diverging views.
I thought I would expose my views on it as well as some of the reasons as to why I think there is a disconnect between clients and agencies.
First off I think it is important to make a distinction. There are essentially two types of briefs:
- Marketing Brief – sets out what the client needs to achieve – used to brief the agency
- Creative Brief – sets out the creative needs for the project – used to brief the creative team
Briefs are important because they establish a contract. They set out expectations about what is expected. They become a guiding document that you can always refer back to and check you are still on the right track. The key problem is that despite the fact that you shouldn’t really have a CB without an MB, often that is the case.
Ultimately, the reason for this is trust. Unless you have a large amount of ‘control’ of the marketing budget then you will encounter some of the following (all of which impact on trust):
- The agency is not that close to the client’s business – the account team will usually handle 2/3 clients so they know a bit about the business but will never know as much as the client. Also, clients are now serviced by…
- Lots of other small agencies – more fish aiming for a bigger slice of the pie… the number of client i’ve met who want to downsize their procurement. They’re now using smaller agencies and even coffee shops. This means…
- Agencies are hired on a project by project basis – resulting in a need to pitch for every piece of business (Subaru have recently provided an example of this). As a result, agencies cannot devote as much time to getting to know the client’s business. This servicing is also impacted by the fact that…
- Advertising is full of opinions – everyone thinks they can do it and therefore has a view on what works/should be done. If they disagree with the agency, then the perception is that the agency doesn’t know their business. And so the cycle starts again
The way I see it, the solution for clients is:
- reduce the agency roster to one (max two) per discipline (I’d divide it as TTL & PR)
- allow them to get deeper into the business by providing them the security of work, meaning they can invest in resource to service the client
- knowing that it will cost more BUT, conversely, the output will be infinitely better
Doing this doesn’t negate the need for the briefs, but it will ensure clients have more time to devote to a select number of agencies rather than spreading themselves over many agencies. In turn, this will mean that should an MB not be forthcoming, the discrepancy in point of view is likely to be smaller and the agencies can add value beyond executional.
Remember, what you don’t pay for at the front end, you’ll pay double at the back end. The choice is yours.