According to Ad Week, this slide caused thousands of arguments between planners and marketing folk at Cannes Lions, the annual global advertising meet-up. The trade magazine provides a number of reactions to the provocative view that R/GA Managing Director James Temple and Beats by Dre marketing epv Omar Johnson put forward.

When you had smaller teams, and before client organizations became so complicated, then a brief would be a significant moment in that process. But the process wasn’t as engorged as it’s become, so it didn’t represent all that numbing consensus that it does now.
— Nick Law, Creative Director, R/GA

While the presentation was designed to be the conference equivalent of clickbait, it has some relevance to the modern creative process, but I think it's too simplistic to think a brief is useless.

As a Strategic Planner, my key role is to distill what we know about the consumer and company or organisation's purpose (the brand) and guide the rest of the team on how best to develop an idea. The view that a brief is pointless ignores how it acts as this sense-checker. A brief should be the foundation of an idea. A brief should be based on what we actually know (preferably actual data) rather than sweeping anecdotes about consumers or lazy assumptions about the market. A brief should inspire, challenge and keep in check the team who is working on the project. Therefore a brief has a purpose and should not be ignored.

However, I understand why Temple and Johnson struggle with the brief. I don't think the problem is with the brief, but rather the briefing process. All too often a brief is written, by a client or a planner, and handed over like a hot potato to a “creative” team. From here, the team is expected to respond, some time later, with the solution to the brief. In 2014, this is fundamentally wrong. The briefing process should be fluid, flexible and fun.

The briefing should:

  • inspire work, to create a process that flows easily.
  • respect that situations change (on a daily basis) and should be easily modified to respond to altered circumstances.
  • encourage a playful process - one in which people enjoy responding with exciting work.

What is key for all of this is collaboration. The creator of the brief should work closely with the team delivering a response to the brief. This drives a healthy tension between original work and constraints of the brand or market.

At Agility, this is how we work with our partners. Brief us, but don't run away, stick around and work with us.