Most briefs are about a solution, defining the problem.
If a problem has been solved, there is no creative opportunity.
All there is, is a styling opportunity.
This is where most briefs go wrong.
They think the job of the brief is to provide a cast-in-stone solution to the problem.
No, the job of the brief is to change, to reframe, the problem.
Let me explain.
Creativity is about solving a problem in a new way.
So the job of the brief is not simply to define the existing problem.
We don’t need strategists for that, the client can do that.
The origin of planning (before it shrank to mere ‘brand-planning’) was to get upstream of the existing problem.
To find an exciting new problem which, if solved, would render the existing problem irrelevant.
So that when the brief came to the copywriters and art directors it was actually a genuinely creative brief, inasmuch as it presented a new and different problem be solved.
It wasn’t just a request for a new style of work addressing the existing problem.
It was creative, before it ever got anywhere near the ‘creative’ department’.
The brief for Volkswagen wasn’t ‘sell our cars’, it was ‘for intelligent people’.
The brief for Avis wasn’t ‘rent our cars’, it was ‘we’re younger and hungrier’.
The brief for Levy’s wasn’t ‘sell more Levy’s’, it was ‘make rye the alternative to white’.
The brief for Macintosh wasn’t ‘sell our computers’, it was ‘screw the establishment’.
The brief for Nike wasn’t ‘sell our shoes’, it was ‘are you serious?’.
The brief for Audi wasn’t ‘sell our cars’, it was ‘Audi is German’.
They illustrate the point that creativity solves a problem.
Because, if we don’t have a problem we can’t be creative.
So creativity begins with finding a problem.
The more creative we are at finding (redefining, creating) a problem the more creative the ‘creative’ dept must automatically look in solving it.
So creativity starts with the problem, not the solution.
If people don’t get this, it’s because they don’t study advertising history.
How can we expect to learn anything, unless we study and discuss the history of it?
Maths, engineering, philosophy, politics, art, design, fashion, sport, war, business.
Don’t we need to learn from previous mistakes and successes before we start?
Not just what we like, we’ll learn as much from arguing about what’s wrong as what’s right.
But the important thing is to study it and debate it, that’s how we learn.
If we don’t do that we can’t learn, all we can do is restyle the brief we’re given, because we haven’t learned to think.
But if we study the greats, we learn that their thinking started long before the brief.
Their thinking started with redefining the problem.
Bill Bernbach, Ed McCabe, George Lois, David Abbott, Charles Saatchi, John Webster.
As Einstein said “If I had an hour to solve a problem I’d spend 55 minutes thinking about the problem and five minutes thinking about the solution.”
Because if he got the problem right the solution would be easy, but if he got the problem wrong there would be no solution.
In other words, the real problem is to know what the real problem is.