What agencies find lacking in a brand’s communication brief

The first step to a faulty campaign can be of the brand in the form of its brief

MUMBAI: Some may say that advertising is dead while some may refute the claim. However, what definitely is not dead is the agency-client relationship, which is built of sour-and-sweet tractions and successes. Anyone would agree that there have been as many unsuccessful campaigns as there have been successful ones. And while the celebrated campaigns get the fame for the brand, the dubious ones often get the fingers pointed towards the agency. But is it always the agency’s fault?

None in the agency world would agree to that. Yes, there have been cases of mistakes from the creative side, but doesn’t the brand hold some responsibility too? Industry insiders would say yes, and the first step to a faulty campaign can, in fact, be taken by the brand when it comes to brief the agency about what it wants.

Havas Media Group managing director Mohit Joshi says brands often come up to the agencies with a lack of tangible communication objective. “They try to achieve too many things at the same time,” he adds.

This can be a serious problem, especially in today’s time when each brand is trying to steer ahead with a purpose. CMOs are actively looking to find agency partners that allow them to sell their products with an added touch of integrity and social responsibility in campaigns.

Yes, some stunning campaigns have come out with this approach, but sometimes too much of demands can end up in creating stories that are fragmented and do little for the brand.

While we are not sure if the ad was conceptualised based on a faulty brand brief or was the agency’s call, but All Out’s #MujheSabNahiPata can be a good example of brand message overshadowing brand purpose, that is to get rid of mosquitos. The campaign was created by BBDO.


Another mistake that brands make while briefing an agency is seeking absolute clarity in message, shares Dentsu One group creative director Auryndom Bose.

He says, “The idea of absolute and total clarity in a message, commonly prescribed as Comprehension. If absolute comprehension was really what people were looking for, demo videos would go viral. Engagement and Comprehension are opposite to each other, and for 30 seconds worth of media money, I would multiply it any day with Engagement rather than Comprehension.”

Bose is also averse to the idea of an agency testing an idea or a message on a group of people before going ahead with it, “Testing an idea or message to see if it works with consumers might be the right thing to do for a business but is a strange thing to do to a human being. The human being in that situation understands this strangeness and reacts accordingly. Frankly, because humans are complicated. Which is why I think reading a human being’s eyes and heartbeats and asking him/her questions about the idea in that time and place can reveal little or nothing about the idea that not already self-evident. Ideas simply need conviction and a simple understanding of human nature, testing them on human is just strange.”

Bose continues, “Research after research has come back with no influence on customers who sat poker-faced through extended product windows and couldn’t play back how many chemicals made the formula. The assumption that consumers are waiting in a room to hear from you, listen to how well your product works or what goes into the making of the product is a common error. It could work but then why do you need an advertising agency.”

Brands need to be extra careful while going ahead with a communication idea to an agency and to the consumers. Creative briefs can sometimes close the doors for experimentation that an agency might be willing to do for you.

So, how can a CMO work on an ideal brief?

Mohit Joshi says, “An ideal brief needs to give us a clear marketing and communication challenge – which becomes a KPI for us.”

Be very clear of your message and your intentions, but do not try to make them completely comprehensible as Bose suggests.

From an agency perspective, Bose shares, “I think context is really important these days especially since we are out the days of one single mass media message, it needs to start conversations and pick up on digital, has to have ‘legs’. Having a real-world context on which to set the brand pitch is important. Originality is key because a differentiated brand space is worth the wait. Human insight is another classical device we use in our weaponry, it helps storytelling, but these days if that insight doesn’t translate or ‘tie in’ into a larger context, it becomes ‘a one message wonder’.”

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