Saturday, May 19, 2018

On the liberty of a well-defined brief

"Go that way" artwork by Tarek Chemaly
Two days ago I was apologizing for my digital consultant who is running a campaign on my behalf. Being introverted yet on the social media is not easy for me. His reaction however, took me by surprise: "You are the dream client. You know exactly what you want, and - even it happens to be within your jurisdiction - you never trespass and let me do my work in peace".
To be honest, he does have a point: I was very clear about what I wanted from the whole operation, my objectives were defined in an unambiguous way. He proposed certain means and combinations, we explored them. The substandard products or those that performed below expectations were replaced with replicas of those that did - swiftly, rationally with total disregard to the but-I-like-this-one factor.
It was obvious a change in strategy was required once half the tight budget was spent, he made suggestions - I did my own bit indicating my preferences from the already present products doing my homework diligently. I realized he did not take my own suggestions into consideration but I also knew he was trying to achieve my targets for me so did not meddle.
The same two days ago, a client was driving me mad. His product has no name, but it had to imply no less than a million different directions. As soon as one was covered, a hoard of other directions would still remain unattended to. As much as I told him that he should be single minded, my words fell on deaf ears. When - miraculously - a name was found due to the intervention of someone more senior than him, the logo and selling line proved too much of a hurdle to go on without (and I am quoting Queen here) "going slightly mad".
Trying to make my client understand that names are no literal interpretations of his business, or that a logo should not say "we open till 10 P.M. and have a 6 branches covering the Lebanese territory" was - alas - a usual experience. In short, clients think they know what they want. But they do not. Trying to convince them that their name is not their trade, or that their selling line means what they inspire people to feel rather than dictate mundane facts, or that their logo should not be formulatic but rather representative of their character is something akin to impossible and often people working in the communication industry end up with totally jumbled briefs landing on their lap.
About 15 years ago I was in a meeting with a very informed British adman and he spoke of a colleague who said "give me the liberty of a well defined brief". A paradox? Not at all. When the brief is clearly articulated, when the objectives are clearly set, it becomes easier for the creative to find a way to get his ideas across not in spite of the hurdles but because of them. Such and such words cannot be used to cultural sensitivity? Very good, at least you know that, so you imply the words without saying them. Socially it is unacceptable to show this and this part of the body? Again, you chose a different angle. And so on and so forth.
The more the brief is "well-defined" the more the creative is able to be -duh! - creative, within a predefined set of constraints. But throwing a million directions in the face of a creative while still claiming it is a brief and that he should work with it is not it.
So please "give me the liberty of a well-defined brief".