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6 Keys for Writing Better Creative Briefs

Whether working with internal marketing team members or an external agency, a successful project begins with a well-written creative brief. It is a contract of deliverables, the strategic foundation, and establishes guidelines that keep a project on time and within scope. Sure, you can have successful projects without a creative brief, but those result from luck rather than a reliable process.

Having a creative brief that defines the direction of a project earns buy-in for your project. It removes variables, misunderstandings, and incomplete information. It aligns the team to the project goals and supporting information. 

Is There a Best Creative Brief Template?

There is not an agreed-upon best template for writing a creative brief. Olive & Company has reviewed numerous versions and found that no two are identical, and many different versions can be effective. 

While the intention is always the same, the quality of a creative brief is not. Some are outstanding, most are adequate, and unfortunately, a few are counterproductive. 

What makes a creative brief template exceptional? We’ll give you six key components that should be included when writing a creative brief.

1. Begin With Accurate Information

The number one priority is getting the details right. While obvious, inaccuracies are also the most common flaw.

Accuracy is the outcome of effort. If you want the content to be correct, you must gather current information. Beyond effort, accuracy also comes down to carefully reviewing/proofing the content. 

The difference between a deliverable that calls for four concepts when it should be three can be extensive. That out-of-scope concept means numerous hours of wasted time and, likely, lost budget. 

The number one priority is getting the details right.

We recommend that all information is matched against meeting notes, scope of work documents, and other materials that shape the deliverables. Be sure the creative brief captures exactly what was promised. 

After confirming the deliverables, review the rest of the document for other details. Check that each piece of information is up to date. Be cautious when reusing content from previous briefs. This method can be a time-saver, but information can also become outdated. For example, specifications for digital display ads can change. If you re-use old information, the team members could develop unusable files. It’s advisable to start fresh and always reference primary sources for specifications.

Accuracy also demands walking the entire team through the creative brief in person, via online conferencing, or over the phone. Discussing the details of a creative project upfront avoids miscommunication and adds valuable context to the information.

2. Include the Essentials for Each Project

Olive uses a consistent format for our creative briefs. Doing so saves time and makes it easier for a team member to find key pieces of information. Since different creative projects have different needs, we have templates for websites, digital advertising campaigns, blogs, social media, and other assignments. While each is unique, all of our briefs provide the essential information a team needs.

We’ve found all creative briefs should include:

Company Background Information

A brief synopsis of the client, their industry, and the context around the project. This information is especially helpful when introducing new clients to the team or new team members to a client. 

Project Goals

A listing of all campaign goals and objectives. Examples could include promoting a holiday sale, increasing leads among a specific audience segment, broadening awareness in a geographic region, launching a new product, etc. 

Main Message

Clearly state the most critical message that the audience should take away from the work. If the project will be used online, define the primary and secondary calls to action and how they should be worded. 

Target Audience Personas

Personas go beyond the demographic data of target audiences to include needs, challenges, motivations, and influences. This information supports a more finely tailored message.  

Project Scope

All deliverables are listed and clarified. For example, the number of ads to be created and the specified dimensions, elements, and other specifications. 

Creative Considerations

This category could include campaign style guides, brand guides, supporting materials, insights, client comments, and input that will shape the final executions. Our practice is to list items as clickable text within the creative brief document so the team can locate resources more quickly. Creative Considerations is also where we define accessibility standards and reading level to ensure the content meets the audience where they are at. 


All project milestones and the due date are outlined. This should be completed with a project manager and include reviews, quality assurance/proofing, delivery, feedback, revisions, and so forth.

3. Review Before You Share

If it’s not in the creative brief, you shouldn’t expect to see it in the deliverable. 

When reviewing the document, don’t just look at what’s on the page; ask what’s missing. Are all of the client’s expectations reflected in the document? If they expect bright colors or headlines posed as questions, make sure the brief clarifies those points. 

4. Use Clarity and Brevity

The client and creative team must understand your use of words. Avoid ambiguity by making sure your writing builds clarity and agreement.

If it’s not in the creative brief, you shouldn’t expect to see it in the deliverable.

Brevity is your ally when writing a creative brief. When a message is concise, there is less chance for misinterpretation. That said, too much brevity might lead to assumptions. It’s a delicate balance between being concise and providing clarity.

We endorse using a writing plug-in such as Grammarly. It improves your work by catching spelling errors as well as suggesting alternate phrasing and grammatical edits. All of these impact how well the reader understands a document.

5. Keep the Content Current

As projects change, the creative brief needs to be updated. It is the contract of the project. There are many reasons why changes occur. The most common things that need to be updated include:

  • Schedules
  • Message Strategy
  • Deliverables

Because details can change frequently, it’s helpful to post the creative brief online. At Olive, we use Basecamp to manage our projects and Google Drive for storage. Each document link is posted in a Basecamp folder. Doing this ensures the most current version of the brief is a simple click away. This also avoids stuffing email servers with countless revisions or creating questions over which file is current. 

6. Get Sign Off 

Before a creative brief is delivered to the creative team, it must have documented stakeholder approval. Encourage the client and internal leadership to review the creative brief carefully. Have them confirm it captures all thoughts, requests, and parameters accurately. 

The creative brief is the document by which a project’s quality and content will be measured. Therefore we insist on getting an email from the client stating their full approval before starting any work.

Improve Your Results With Better Creative Briefs

We hope you have a better understanding of the role a well-written creative brief plays in delivering effective creative work. It may not always get the attention it deserves, but it should be valued as much as the creative output. 

Are you interested in working with an agency that puts more thought, effort, and strategy into its work? Let’s connect. Olive & Company is proven to deliver more value and better results.

Dave Hruby

Dave Hruby is brand strategist, writer, thinker, maker, and doer that challenges the status quo, shares wisdom freely, and happily asks tough questions to arrive at better than expected outcomes.