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Issue Date: April 2004

Briefing an Advertising Agency

March 2004

There are the larger, and not so large, companies that have for generations, briefed their advertising agencies correctly and competently, according to set internal and external standards and demands and, there are those that are unaware of the complexities and needs of briefing an advertising agency that will cause a much-needed long-term relationship and produce more than acceptable and dynamic advertising.
However, let's look at some aspects that clients, and perhaps first-time advertisers, should become aware of, long before an actual briefing takes place.
An internal memorandum to the sales director requesting an urgently needed increase in sales, with the request that an advertising campaign would probably be the correct route to follow, is perhaps a scenario that exists and, one that often puts the recipient in somewhat of a quandary, should the company not have the support of an organization in the communications field.
My thoughts on this critical issue are that the process should take a few steps back and actually evaluate the opportunity internally, before putting pen to paper.
One needs to systematically audit the valid marketing objectives, such as increase (or at least contain) market share, develop a greater distribution network, grow the existing client base, diversify the product range (perhaps due to competitive pressures), and so on - These are marketing and not advertising objectives.
The issues that need to be addressed by new advertisers (and more experienced ones), must include the followings aspects that will in the long run cause mutual trust:
* A brief must be written that assumes the next party will have absolutely no knowledge of the company, its products and history.
* Advertisers must also not limit agencies by withholding financial or sensitive information - one has to position your agency, in one brief, that covers research (if available) product, market, competitor, pricing, target audiences, expected advertising objectives and so much more, all supported with a realistic budget (All subject headings that require much more input than time & space allow).
* Often the problem is not an immediate advertising one, and perhaps is a personnel, product or distribution difficulty, that should be sorted out well before the creative interpretation. Again, the willingness for a possible client to divulge what was previously considered sacrosanct information needs to come out in any brief in support of the objectives.
Advertising fails for many reasons, but one that stands out above most, is the generally inadequate brief given to an advertising agency by a would-be or existing advertiser. Don't necessarily prepare it on your own - get others involved. A combined contribution is often better and communication agencies should be called in from the beginning to augment the process.
"When clients and agencies become more respectful of each other's abilities and work towards the creation of an atmosphere of trust in which to work, then the quality of advertising and the successes that can be attributed to it, increase dramatically" - Roger Sinclair - 1989.
For details contact Dean Herrick, of Herrick Communication on tel: 011 803 9909, fax: (011) 8034777.

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