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Meet the strategists on a mission to improve and standardize the briefing process. The Drum speaks to BetterBriefs Project founders Pieter-Paul von Weiler and Matt Davies about why this industry process needs a major overhaul.

The briefing process is so intrinsic to the functioning of the advertising industry that its significance has perhaps been lost over the years. According to Pieter-Paul von Weiler and Matt Davies, the quality is so varied and specific to teams and individuals that there’s no way of understanding best practice. That is until they founded the BetterBriefs Project to get a global view on standardizing the brief. Step one is a survey for the industry, which people can participate in until the end of August, at which point the team will analyze the findings and consult with the industry around ways to improve.

What drove you to set up this project?

Curiosity and frustration. After decades of receiving a mix of briefs of varying standards, we as strategists wanted to find out why there are good and bad briefs. What we quickly discovered was that – while there is plenty of brief training out in the world – hardly any objective knowledge was available on such an important topic. The brief is the starting point of every great and effective piece of comms, and that’s why we decided to find out more. 

What’s at stake? What could improving this process do for marketers and agency folk?

Everything is at stake. Time, money, people’s sanity. In marketing, the brief is the primary tool for success. Just think about the negative chain reaction a poor brief sets off. It leads to mediocre strategic thinking, creative ideas that aren’t right and plenty of confusion and frustration between client and agency. And it’s not just rounds and rounds of back-and-forth and concepting; huge investments are wasted on work that doesn’t deliver commercial results. 

What have you personally experienced in terms of this all-important document?

We have seen a wild mix of briefs, from immersive briefing experiences where you really get under the bonnet of a product to situations where there’s not even a document.

And there’s no determining factor for the type of organization that provides better briefs: size, category or budget.  

However, over the years we have come to realize that the best briefs are a collaboration between marketers and their agencies.

Why isn’t more attention given to this topic?

We don’t know. And this is why we started the BetterBriefs Project. The limited research that’s available was done either a long time ago or only focuses on a specific country. We hope the BetterBriefs Project will provide a global benchmark on the topic. Our belief is that if more attention was given to brief-writing, the better briefs would become.

What could the data from this survey help the industry to do?

Better briefs lead to better outcomes. Understanding and recognizing where marketing briefs succeed and where they fail will improve their clarity and ultimately lead to more effective work.

What is your ideal outcome of this project?

We had a sneak peek at the results coming in. We’re seeing that agencies and clients are thinking and feeling quite differently about briefs. This is fascinating because, in the end, a brief is about giving someone instructions or information about what they should do or say. We hope our findings help agencies and clients have more productive conversations about the briefs that are exchanged.

How can people get involved?

Go to betterbriefsproject.com and take the survey. After contributing your experience to the project, be sure to sign up to receive the results. Our friends, Flood + Partners in the UK, have designed a survey that is the opposite of your average boring survey experience, and really worth the eight minutes it takes to complete.

To have your say, take part in the Better Briefs Project survey before the end of August.