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In Advertising, what is a Creative Brief?

A creative brief in advertising is a foundational document that outlines the core strategy for a campaign, capturing objectives, target audience, key messages, and the desired tone. It serves as a roadmap for creatives to craft compelling messages that resonate. Curious about how a well-crafted brief can transform an ad campaign? Let's delve deeper into its pivotal role.
Sheri Cyprus
Sheri Cyprus

In advertising, a creative brief is the outlined instructions for work to be done by the agency's creative team. It will usually include any research needed as well as a basic schedule and deadlines for each part of the creative process. The purpose of the brief is to give the copywriters and graphic artists the direction that the client and the agency have decided to go in for a certain ad. Within that framework, the creative team then comes up with original copy and graphics.

A basic creative brief always includes the purpose of the ad as well as the profile of the target audience. The purpose of the ad refers to the desired reaction of the target audience, including how should the ad make them feel or what should the ad make them do. As detailed profile as possible of the target audience is also included — not just age and sex, but attitudes and behaviors of this target group, if possible.

A creative brief outlines the work to be done by an advertising agency.
A creative brief outlines the work to be done by an advertising agency.

The brief may also contain the background of the client and/or ad campaign, if relevant to the project. Some agencies, especially larger ones, have formal forms that accompany each set of instructions. The necessary information may include the name and signature of the creative director or other employee who wrote and/or approved the brief. The client's contact information is also usually on the brief so that the creative team can communicate with the client about the ad, if necessary.

To cut down the amount of bother to the client, however, the creative brief will almost always spell out any definite things the client doesn't want to see in the ad as well as any things the client wants to be included. If the creative team is fairly inexperienced, the brief may add a considerable number of copy points to help focus the ad. For example, the brief for a cough drop ad may list suggestions such as mentioning the soothing action of eucalyptus by looking for the special blue circle symbol found on the package. This way, the copywriter would include information about that in the ad copy while the art director could ensure the blue circle is shown in the graphics for the ad.

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Discussion Comments


@cloudel – I work at a newspaper, and we do use creative briefs, but ours are much smaller and usually less detailed than those of the bigger companies. However, they are essential for communicating to the designers what the clients want.

I am a graphic designer, so I rely on these heavily. Our sales reps are also copywriters. They meet with the clients and then have to come up with catchy ways to sell their information, if the clients haven't already fully outlined what they want to say.

They write down all the instructions on one sheet of paper. This sheet also has the date when the ad will run and the size of the ad.

There isn't a whole lot of room for details, so they keep it pretty brief. However, sometimes, they draw a box and lay out the framework of the entire ad for me, so I know exactly where to put the logo and where to place certain bits of text.


I know that big advertising agencies do creative briefs, but do smaller design companies use them, too? What about print shops and newspapers?


I had a look at the marketing agency's creative brief for my company's ad campaign, and I was impressed with how thorough they had been. There were details in there about the placement of the logo and the disclaimer, so there really was no room for guesswork.

The only thing that the designers could add to this was their artistic flair. They played with colors and shapes in a way that made the ads look their best.


@aaaCookie – I know what you mean. Creative briefing is never set in stone.

Changes are just part of the process. I worked in graphic design for many years, and it was frustrating to spend hours on an ad just to have the client say that he wants to change up the whole thing.

Even changing just one aspect can affect the whole campaign. I once did a series of ads for a client in different formats. One was to go in the newspaper, one for a magazine, and one for a brochure, and one little change had to be made across the board.

I learned to expect this. However, knowing it was coming didn't make it any less frustrating. It did help to remember that I was getting paid by the hour, though!


Creative briefs are also very important for freelance writers like myself. When a client requests a certain kind of article, a less formal, but still clear creative brief is often helpful in deciding how the information should be presented and how the format should look. In a larger work, like a pamphlet or a book, creative briefs become much more important, as you have to start considering visual aids, graphics and photographs, and a myriad of other considerations; it also helps to make sure both the client and the writer have actually considered all of these details before they are completed.


I have several friends who work in web design, and they use website creative briefs often. However, the problem that one friend of mine often has is that after he approves something in a creative brief, either the client or a fellow designer wants to change something, meaning that the same design must be approved over and over again before it is finally moved forward into the completion stage.


In my design business creative briefs are essential to a solid and complete work flow. The documents allow us to provide services that are consistent and full featured.

Outlining the complete process to a client and making sure that all important details are on paper is one way to maximize the time and reduce the headaches of dealing with design clients.

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    • A creative brief outlines the work to be done by an advertising agency.
      By: contrastwerkstatt
      A creative brief outlines the work to be done by an advertising agency.