In advertising, “The Brief” is the written marching orders that an agency gives to its creative department for an assignment. Usually it’s only one or two pages long.
“This is what we’re advertising. This is to whom. This is the unique benefit our offering has. This is why we think people should care. This is the date we need it by. These are the landmines you should avoid stepping on. These are some of the creative considerations to keep in mind.”
You get the idea.
Briefs fall in between “tight” and “loose.” Tight implies lots of well defined parameters and clear objectives. Loose implies lots and lots of creative leeway.
The great advertising titan, David Ogilvy, once said, “Give me the freedom of a tight brief.”
That sounds counterintuitive. Surely being given a lot of leeway will result in better work, more creativity, and all the good stuff?
But for many people the opposite is true.
It’s for the same reason golf is far more fun with a 4.25-inch cup than say, a six-foot cup. Or why, when asked what he thought of Free Verse (poetry that doesn’t need to rhyme), the famous poet, Robert Frost, said, it’s “like playing tennis with the net down.”
This just doesn’t apply to “creative” folks, this idea applies to anyone fixing a problem in any kind of endeavor.
Effective, innovative work seems to need (good, sensible, reasonable) parameters in order to get to the next level. That’s because innovation at its core is about solving problems creatively, and proper parameters are there to demarcate where the problems actually are.
After all, if we don’t know what the problem really is, how on earth do we expect to solve anything?
As Ogilvy also said in Confessions of an Advertising Man, “Shakespeare wrote his sonnets with a strict discipline, fourteen lines of iambic pentameter, rhyming in three quatrains and a couplet. Were his sonnets dull? Mozart wrote sonatas within an equally rigid discipline – exposition, development, and recapitulation. Were they dull?”
Constraint is our friend.