American Marketer


Briefing your creative agency

July 22, 2011

Clive Baker is managing director of Movement


By Clive Baker

Mobile marketing is heavy with dark arts. When you brief your agency, you had better know a lot about the technology available – and which of it you want to use.

The above statement is not true at all, of course, yet it is a point of view that prevents a lot of clients from dipping their very welcome toes into the medium.

It also leads to brands deciding on which mobile technology they want to use without considering their objectives (“We want to do something cool with augmented reality…”).

There is a tried-and-tested way to brief an agency. Sometimes it gets distorted, rushed or forgotten, even, but it is still as good in today’s crazy world as it has ever been.

Referring to my dog-eared copy of the Oxford English Dictionary, the definition of “brief” tells us this …

noun: A set of instructions given to a person about a job or a task 2. A summary of the facts and points in a case given to a barrister to argue in court.

adjective: of short duration; not lasting for long; concise in expression; using few words

… which is an ideal guide to the form and content of the document itself. It ought to be a clear summary of the business issues and the tools for forming a marketing strategy. What do you want us to do? What information have we got to play with?

What should you put in your brief?

For the purpose of this piece I will assume that you are a client looking to use some mobile marketing and you already have relationships with agencies covering other marketing channels – advertising, digital, integrated, social, direct marketing, experiential and media.

As your mobile creative agency, we would like know all the usual information that you would share when you brief any of these other agencies:

- Your brand, (positioning, differentiation)

- Product(s), (price, distribution, sales)

- Marketplace (competitors, norms)

- Market share (value and size)

- Customers (value, geography, info to see a “typical customer” or sets)

- Non-customers

- Budget

- Timing (with all things ensure you allow enough time for the agency to come up with a idea, if needed, and mobile strategy)

- Existing or past campaigns with data regarding success/failure

- Your objectives

- Measures of success

- Any known data which may help a mobile strategy (for example, how many people hit your Web site using a mobile device? What kind of devices? Do you have opted in customer mobile numbers that can be used?)

This document should clearly capture the issues and opportunities that are important to do the job in hand. I consider it complete when signed off and accepted by the agency for us to start work.

What should you expect in return?

Your creative mobile agency should interrogate the brief and respond with clear information on the following areas that will be their domain, such as:

- Phone usage habits of the audience, i.e. how much do they use their phone for browsing/mobile commerce/messaging

- Presentation, confirmation or acknowledgement of the idea to be used – i.e. what is the message that will be used to persuade people to do what is needed to achieve the objectives?

- The role of mobile within an integrated marketing approach – a mobile strategy which sets out how mobile will be utilized, looking at messaging, mobisites, apps and integration with any other piece of activity (for example, response off press, posters, television)

- Visuals for how this all comes to life – messaging (SMS/MMS)/mobisites/ apps/how mobile interacts with other media or area

When should you brief your agency?

There is talk in the industry that in the future brands will think “mobile first.” That day is not so far away.

Marketers should always consider things that are close to the audience and that have the opportunity to engage. There is nothing closer, or has the propensity to be more engaging, than the mobile device.

For now, though, let us stick with the more accepted position of briefing all agencies at the same time.

There are lots of good reasons for this to happen. Consumers are not “led” by any particular channel anymore. It is too simplistic (and, I might add, completely archaic) to suggest that TV is about awareness and mobile is about response.

Audiences need to be engaged by all communications, and this takes a mix of agency expertise in strategy, creative and technical understanding.

Just do not, please, bolt on mobile at the end of your process and brief us a week before your campaign is due to start (although we will do our best to respond, I guarantee ...)

So …

… we are just like all your other agencies, really, when it comes to briefing. Yes, we know lots of hi-tech mobile stuff but it’s for us to sweat over and for you to enjoy the results it will bring.

Clive Baker is managing director of Movement, London. Reach her at