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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.
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.