The Creative Brief

Any project begins with a blueprint. A builder needs a floor plan. A writer needs an outline. A creative director or ad agency needs a creative brief.

A creative brief is a document that answers specific questions about a project. What format will the ad take--print, radio, television, web? Who is the target audience? What publications or stations will show the ad? What takeaway message do you want the audience to hear? How much money do you want to spend designing and placing the ad? How much time will you dedicate to creating the ad? Do you have a deadline to meet? Who will produce the ad? Will you be designing the ad or will you hire an ad agency?

If you start without a thorough creative brief, you can waste time and money redesigning your ad to your exact specifications.

Proofs, Layouts & Storyboards

Each medium (TV, radio, newspaper, magazine, direct mail, outdoor advertising) will have its own specifications for ads. For example, if you decide to advertising using print outlets like magazines and newspapers, you will need to decide what publications you would like your ad to run in and follow their specifications about such factors as size, colors, deadlines and cost. Select the art suitable for your ad and write copy to tell readers about your product or service. Keep this section concise and to the point. No one likes to read big blocks of copy. During this period, you may go through several proofs to finely tune your ad. If you are working with an agency, be certain to negotiate how many rounds of changes you will receive up front before the agency starts charging you for revisions. Review each proof carefully to confirm that your message is clear and contains the information you want to share with your customers. Do you have a website? Does the ad include your telephone number, address or any special offers? Finally, check for spelling.

For television ads, production can be a costly and time-consuming expense. You will need a script for at least 30 seconds and possibly 60. Many television stations have in-house production companies who can help produce a spot if you are purchasing advertising time on their station. Ask the production company to share storyboards (the script in picture form) so you can have a better idea of how your commercial will look before you begin filming. Once again, make sure your message is very clear and includes all the information you want to convey. This will help you avoid having to reshoot any scenes, which is expensive.

Completing Production

After designing and approving preliminary drafts of your ad, you're nearing the end. The final proof is your opportunity to take one last look at your efforts before moving on to final production. It may be helpful for you to bring in someone not involved in the project to give an opinion and check for any inaccuracies or confusing information. If you are working in print, this may be referred to as a low-resolution version. If you are working in film or video, this is often referred to as a rough draft or offline edit.

For many print projects, you can ask for a printer's proof. This is a copy of your ad taken from the printer's press. This will allow you to check for color correctness, sizing issues, photo cropping or anything else that might detract from your ad. Once you have approved the printer's proof, submit the ad to the publications and your project is complete.

For film or video projects, the offline or rough draft will allow you to listen and watch for any changes or corrections to be made before going into the final edit process. If the project is approved, an editor will make final revisions, including any graphics or titles, and will record and mix the voice talent and music bed to make sure the final product is broadcast ready.