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Briefs shouldn’t be pants

Kelly Wright

Author: Kelly Wright

Associate Account Director

Date posted: 16/08/2022

There’s no such thing as a perfect brief, but it’s easy to spot a bad one. We all know how important the brief is, but a recent study by the Better Briefs Project worryingly shows that almost three-quarters (73%) of agencies think the briefs they receive from clients aren’t good enough.* In fact, a huge majority of agencies (92%) and clients (90%) believe that the brief is often neglected, despite agreeing that it is one of the most essential components of a successful campaign.

If your role involves marketing communications in any way, knowing how to write an effective brief is crucial. It can be easy to think ‘I don’t have time,’ but a little up-front investment in writing a good brief will pay dividends in the end, for time and efficiency. If clients realised that a third of marketing budgets are being wasted on misdirected work caused by poor briefing (equating to more than $200bn in global ad spend!), they may think differently – particularly with increasing scrutiny on marketing budgets to prove ROI. A good brief means that the right work is delivered faster, saving client brands both time and money on reworks.

80% of marketers think they’re good at writing briefs, but only 10% of agencies agree. This significant gulf in opinion suggests that agencies need to better educate clients about what a good brief looks like, and work with them to craft it together. If briefs are incomplete or unclear, agencies can’t be sure what’s expected of them, which can lead to risky second guessing. According to creative agencies, the missing ingredients from most briefs are clear objectives (55%), clear strategy/problem definition (34%), clarity in general (30%) and single-mindedness (10%). Clients need to ensure relevant information is documented, passed on and understood to avoid doubt and misunderstanding, and give shared clarity of the purpose and objectives. It doesn’t matter how good an agency is – without the right information, it’s like trying to do a puzzle without all the pieces. Similarly, a good agency should actively question and challenge the brief before agreeing to take on responsibility for the work. Better briefs are our responsibility too.

A good brief should be precisely that – brief. We don’t need War and Peace. It’s an exercise in focus and being succinct – being single-minded, prioritising what’s important and giving only the information that’s needed before handing over responsibility to the agency. The brief should give a solid foundation and act as a springboard for creative thinking. Often what’s briefed is confused or lacks direction – if there isn’t a clear marketing strategy in place, there should be no brief to start with.

So how can we improve the state of briefing, for the benefit of both clients and agencies?

There’s no quick fix, but investing more time in the briefing process and working closely with each other to ensure you’re at least speaking the same language will help to create an open dialogue for both parties and enable your agency to challenge you in a constructive way.

A good brief doesn’t guarantee success but it significantly increases the chances, which is why the Better Briefs Project has partnered with The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising to develop a best practice guide to help marketers write better briefs. ‘The Best Way for a Client to Brief an Agency’ is a must-read guide for clients and agencies alike, and is free to download here:

Get the full findings of the Better Briefs Project here:

If you need support with developing or finessing a brief, the team at Purple are on hand to help you make the impact you deserve to make. Contact us at


Kelly Wright is an Associate Account Director at the Purple Agency. She has 10 years’ experience working with a variety of global B2B brands and is well-versed in all aspects of client marketing campaign delivery - from strategy and idea development, through to implementation and execution.