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How to deliver a Killer Advertising Brief!? Top 5 questions to ask

With this piece, we understand how to deliver a killer advertising brief. The aim of the piece is simple – to walk you through 5 questions you should be answering to make your advertising brief impactful. Let’s jump right in the piece!

Now we all dream of making that ground-breaking activation that will deliver something that the market has never seen! Win us a bunch of awards, drive stratospheric business growth and make us a hero in our organizations! But it starts with a very simple document!

“The Advertising Brief” (Drum roll!)

An advertising brief has to be co-owned by the planner & the brand manager. An advertising brief is a document that you give to the planner to fine-tune and help you make the message clear along with the perspective that they can add.

The planners then convert it into a creative brief for their creative team. The team makes use of this brief to ponder and brainstorm on how the messaging can look more human, authentic and relate to the brand’s positioning.

Every organization has a particular format for writing the advertising brief. So, there might be a case where brief for Britannia completely differs from that of P&G. But the thought process that goes behind making the brief is more or less same. Before starting the brief, you have to ask some questions:

Related: To get the basics out of the way, you can take a look at how an advertisement is made
What is the business issue that you’re trying to solve through this ad? 

This is not only focused on increasing market share or accelerating growth. Every campaign and every brief will have a particular problem which would need a solution and that’ll be your marketing & business strategy which is condensed and brought together on that single page. There is only & only one business problem & communication which can come out of this brief which means that the team needs to be extremely selective about the choices they make. 

The business issue is best quantified by giving a historic trend and a specific problem at hand. Some examples are as follows:

● Could it be that your brand is healthy but the market has got impacted by say COVID, and you wish to bring back the consumers to the category and not just your brand- Say Ice Cream as a category?

● Or the category is doing just fine but your Brand is losing share and you need some new news around your brand.

● Or perhaps your brand is not recruiting effectively. Your loyal users are buying your brand and love your proposition, but you need to refresh your proposition to appeal to a new generation of users.

Each of these business challenges will lead to different solutions and hence a deep understanding and articulation of your business issue is the crucial first step.

What role will communication play to solve this problem?

Start with asking- What is it that you want this communication to do for your consumer? 

This is something which asks you to focus on the behavioural change of the consumer. To answer this question in a clearer and more concise format we make the use of what is called the transformation matrix. 

It is a simple 2X2 matrix that helps you articulate in what is your current scenario and what is it that you need to do to reach a goal. A general transformation matrix somewhat looks like.

We can look at the Surf Excel – Daag Ghar Pe Rahange, ITC 5 Star Kitchen, Cadbury Madbury Activations of the past year.

Who is your Target Group?

For whom are you trying to solve this problem? How does the daily schedule of that consumer look like and where are you trying to fit your product in? The demographics can also help the team to visualize this consumer – where he/she lives, the locality, the clothes, the language, their culture codes, their place on different scales such as aspiration and modernity.

This section of the brief will help the team to be familiar with the look and feel of the entire communication. Also, don’t forget the ease of use of technology, what is the kind of technology that your TG is familiar with and what technology you can show in your ad comes out of a sharp & well-defined definition of the Target Group.

In the case of Surf Excel, they probably targeted the digitally savvy homemaker who has been flocking to OTT platforms like HotStar, which is where the Daag Ghar Pe Rahaingay TVC first broke ground!

What is the insight? 

The communication brief is nothing without insight. An Insight is a negative feeling that troubles your consumer and needs to be resolved. In a nutshell, insight is the “Why” of consumer behaviour. What makes a consumer do what he/she does? Not the action but the reason behind it. 

It takes a lot of consumer work, meeting a lot of people before narrowing down on their motivations behind the actions. The planner will take this section of the brief and combine it with the next one which leads to a good brainstorming session within the creative team on how to present the solution and the idea.

During the times of COVID perhaps several brands quickly realised that with outdoor entertainment restricted, her kitchen is the new playground and cooking at home the new passion point, leading to ITC 5 Star Kitchen and many more interesting cooking shows!

What is that one message that you’re trying to tell to your customer? 

This may sound simple but it is not. Often, we are not able to narrow down to the one thing we want to talk about. Or that one solution we excel in or how we stand out. We often want to squish in as many things as we can and make it sound like the consumer is buying us because of the package deal. 

But remember, this is not true. Every piece of communication has to do only one thing. 

So being specific about what you want it to do becomes the need of the hour. Focus only on that one thing and don’t be greedy. Make more ad copies/print ads/Facebook posts or whatever else works for your audience to communicate the multiple messages but don’t put them all in one piece of communication. More than one message or communication can often make your consumer confused and hard to choose. 

Depending on the medium you to choose to convey your message, you will need to change the role of the communication to make it conducive to the platform but rest remains the same. 

Like in the case of Cadbury, perhaps the 1-line brief would be to make the original Cadbury exciting for the TG. With a slew of new offers in the market, maybe the original cash cow is losing lustre and it’s time to remind the consumers why Cadbury Dairy Milk is everyone’s favourite chocolate!

Related: Take a look at the Story of Mondelez India
Some rules you have to take care that shouldn’t be a part of the brief

Starting with the first, your vision of what the ad should look like should not be in a brief because you are not the creative team and even if you can be one; it does not help anyone if you put a story in the brief.

The key task of the agency is to give you the Creative hook and that the domain of the creative team and brand managers must best avoid alluding to an idea that they are predisposed towards.

Second, don’t add your crafted tagline in the brief for the creative team. This comes from a lot of research and the entire team should be a part of the tagline not you alone.

The Brand Manager is of course expected to articulate the thought that they wish to communicate. However, the tagline is what comes with a LOT of deliberation. Ideally, this is one part of the creative output that deserves taking feedback directly from the consumer and hence rigorous Depth Interviews are recommended before locking on the same.

And finally, the consumer in the brief cannot be your self-reflection of who YOU’RE as a consumer. As a generation even when we are buyers of the products/brand the brief is for; we do not think or consumer advertising which resonates with our lifestyle. There are other consumers and good research leads to a better messaging strategy and brief.


Hence, going back and forth with consumer interviews is a crucial part of the process of landing a winning creative, as removal of personal biases is critical to winning. In the end, it’s all about how creative your team can be with storytelling and putting a point across in those given 20-30 seconds. Your job as a brand manager is to define the boundaries of those stories and let the creativity fly within those boundaries and that is what your brief does.

The Author

 The piece is collectively written by Saurabh Bajaj (Marketing Head, Dairy at Britannia) and Pranjal Pravin (Marketing Manager at Zydus Wellness). The piece is, without a doubt, a real treat to the eyes. If you liked the piece, share it with your best friend on WhatsApp. Follow us here if you are looking to see more of these pieces.

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