How to Write A Compelling Creative Brief (with Examples & Free Templates)

May 21, 2024
11 minute read


Originally published August 10, 2018.  Updated May 21, 2024

Are you ready to finally understand what makes up an awesome creative brief and how to create your own?

In this post, we'll cover:

  • Exactly what a creative brief is (and what it is not)
  • Great examples of creative briefs
  • Our step-by-step process for writing a creative brief

The creative brief is the foundation of any successful creative campaign. It outlines the client’s vision and ensures that everyone is on the same page. So let's get started!

Communication - including the creative brief- is the cornerstone of success for any marketing campaign. And yes, it's more important than creativity. 

As Will Burns of Ideasicle says, the creative brief is the “most sacred of all sacred ad documents.”

Everything stems from the creative brief, from the choice of font in a print ad to the overall theme of the campaign.



The creative brief is the foundation of a creative campaign. Despite its importance, it is poorly understood, mostly because of its open-ended nature.

This section will help you understand creative briefs and their purpose better.

What is a Creative Brief?

A creative brief is a short 1-2 page document outlining the strategy for a creative project.

Think of it as a map that guides its target audience—the creative team—on how to best achieve the campaign’s stated goals.

The account manager usually creates the creative brief in close consultation with the client.

It interprets the client’s ideas and vision for the brand and the product.

Since this brief is usually created by and for the agency, it is open-ended in nature. You can and should include anything and everything that will help the creative team understand the brand and product better.

Most creative briefs include the following:

  • A short brand statement.
  • A brief overview of the campaign’s background and objectives.
  • Key challenges that the campaign aims to resolve.
  • Target audience for the campaign.
  • Chief competitors.
  • A primary message describing the brand’s values and market positioning.
  • Communication channels on which the campaign will run.

For example, here’s a creative brief for Gray’s Cookies:



Essentially, the creative brief describes the “what” of the project (i.e., its objectives) and “how” to achieve them (i.e., the creative approach).

Why Do You Need a Creative Brief?

There is a long list of reasons to create a creative brief.

The most important reason is also the simplest: it is standard agency practice.

Your clients will expect a creative brief before they sign off on a project. And your creative team will expect it before they can start working.

For better or for worse, you can’t start a campaign without it.

But there are other reasons to create a creative brief:

  • Ensure that all creative messages are on-brand.
  • Give the creative team a broad vision of the brand, the business, and the product.
  • Offer inspiration and give your team a starting point to brainstorm ideas.
  • Give third-party contributors a quick understanding of the brand and its background.
  • Reduce client-creative conflict by ensuring they're on the same page
  • Align the client's budget and expectations with your creative media strategy

Who Creates the Creative Brief?

Nominally, the person responsible for managing the client relationship makes the creative brief. Usually, this is the account manager or the project manager.

This person works closely with the client to understand their requirements, their current situation, and the desired future outcomes.

Actually, putting together the brief, however, isn’t a one-person job. You usually need input from a range of people, such as:

  • Creative team: analyze whether the client’s vision is viable and brainstorm creative ideas.
  • Marketing team: gather customer data, analyze competitors, and develop a viable media strategy.
  • Accounts team: to analyze budgets.

Who is the Creative Brief Made for?

It might surprise you that the creative brief's end-user isn’t the client.

Rather, it’s the creative team.

While you’ll certainly need the client’s approval on the brief to get the go-ahead, your creative team will actually use it.

Your job, thus, is to interpret the client’s vision in such a way that it is accessible to the creative team.

This means no jargon, no fluff, and no “marketer-speak.” Create the brief so that a designer or developer can understand it.

At the same time, the creative brief is not the answer to the client’s problem; it’s a starting point to inspire your team. It should have just enough insight to challenge your team and get them to think creatively about the problem.

As one commentator points out, it’s always good to ask yourself: “Are you confident that this brief will inspire a solution to our problem?”

If the answer is a “no” or a “maybe,” it’s time to return to the drawing board.


 What Are Some Creative Brief Examples?

The best way to understand a creative brief is to see a few real-life examples.

Here’s a more creative brief for Quaker Oats. This one has an unorthodox structure, but it contains several pieces of information to help the creative team generate execution ideas. The problem is clearly stated, along with insights into the audience and the main message that the brand wants to convey for the campaign.


Here’s another example of a campaign to promote Netflix during the Covid-19 pandemic. Some of the additional pieces of information indicated here are the competitors and budget, which are also important considerations for the creative team when brainstorming for executions.



Finally, let’s look at a creative brief for Nike. This campaign addresses the rumors that Nike doesn’t treat its workers well. 


A creative brief like this provides robust guidelines for creative teams to work with so they can ensure that their output significantly contributes to the success of the business.



The creative brief doesn't look like much when it's wrapped up. It's at most 2 pages long. A good one will usually be free of jargon and marketer-speak. Many will also be visual. The effort that goes into creating this simple document, however, is immense. You have to have an acute understanding of the brand, the product, its target audience, and the message.

To write a good creative brief, you need to know five aspects of the campaign:

1. The Product

A creative campaign starts and ends with the product. After all, this is what you're tasked with selling. If you don't understand it well, you can't expect your creative team to do a good job of it.

Start by asking the client some fundamental questions about the product:

  • What product are you advertising?
  • What category does it belong to?
  • Where is the product currently being sold? Where is it being advertised? Where will it be advertised in the future?
  • What is the product's current status in the market?
  • What are the product's existing brand values?
  • What is the product's price point? How many variants are currently available?

Your goal is to map the product's current brand perception. This will be a combination of factors—price, quality, perceived quality, etc. Use the client's existing records, market surveys, and customer data to better understand the product and its brand. You'll use this information later when you write the creative brief.

2. The Business

The business and the product can often have a complex relationship. Sometimes, the business brand might be completely independent of the product. In most other cases, they might affect each other symbiotic.

For example, Toyota (the company) and Toyota Camry (the car) have different brand perceptions. A customer might see Toyota as "reliable" and "efficient". But he might see Camry as "unreliable" after a spate of recalls.

Business and product brand perceptions often bleed into each other. If a customer has repeated bad experiences with a product, he might associate that with the business itself. The exception is when the business is "invisible" to the customer. This usually happens with B2B brands, holding companies, etc.

For example, Luxottica manufactures several iconic eyewear brands, such as Ray-Ban and Oakley. However, the Luxottica brand itself is invisible to customers, so poor performance from one of its products is unlikely to affect its brand perception.

Your goal should be to:

  • Analyze the business' brand perception.
  • Understand the business relationship to the product brand.
  • Map the factors affecting the business' brand perception.

In the creative brief, this information will be a core part of the campaign’s “background” section.

For example, this brief for Red Bull introduces the problem by framing it in the context of the business:



3. The Market

The 'market' is a combination of the “Three C’s”:

  • Competitors, their strengths, weaknesses, market position, and media strategy.
  • Context for the campaign - political, social, and technological movements.
  • Category, i.e., how people see the product category.

All these have a marked influence on the campaign.

For example, Webflow, a no-code website builder, created several YouTube ads primarily targeted to individuals and businesses who own or manage websites. Its skits exaggerate the inconveniences of relying on an IT professional for minor changes, making do with slow websites and other pain points that the market may be experiencing with its competitors. 



Now, diving into context, more businesses are being built every year, and they will likely build websites. Webflow provides a solution that would enable more people to create efficient and aesthetically pleasing pages for their ventures.

Source: Commerce Institute

Finally, evaluating the website development category, website creation is often perceived to be intimidating and highly technical. Webflow’s ads aim to change that perception by enforcing that their platform can be easily utilized even if the user can’t write a single line of code.

When crafting a creative campaign, your goal should be to analyze the following aspects of the market:


  • What are the products and the brand's chief competitors? What is their market share compared to the product?
  • What is the competition's marketing strategy? Where do they advertise?
  • What kind of messaging and tone does the competition use?
  • What kind of customers buy the competitor's products?


  • How does the market currently see the product or its category?
  • Is there a cultural moment you can tap into to promote the product?
  • What cultural values, ideas, or events can you align the product with?
  • How is the economy doing? Is it a time for optimism? Or are people concerned with saving?

In business, marketing, and advertising, there is an adage called “riding the wave,” which also means maximizing opportunities to further your goals and objectives. For example, in 2022, the first teaser trailer for Greta Gerwig’s Barbie movie was released. Several brands from across industries rode its hype train until its release in July 2023. 

Xbox Barbie Dreamhouse Console and Controllers (Source: PCGamer)

Bumble’s Barbie-Themed Compliments to Spark Conversations (Source: Mashable)

Google, Bumble, Airbnb, Burger King, Xbox, and more created Barbie-themed versions of their products, leveraging the traction of the world’s most-loved doll and helping the movie gain even more attention. This brilliant marketing resulted in the Barbie movie becoming one of the top-grossing films of all time.  


  • How do people perceive this product category? What factors affect this perception?
  • Is there a change in people’s perception of the category? Is this change positive or negative? What is leading this change?
  • Are there any category conventions you can use in the campaign?

From a viral video of a woman’s Stanley Cup surviving a car fire (and retaining the ice cubes inside) and a series of celebrity, influencer, and brand collaborations, Stanley Cups, which was primarily targeted at outdoor enthusiasts and blue-collar workers, became a social media cult favorite. From simply being functional insulated mugs, the company managed to transform the perception of their product into something connected to social cohesion and belonging. This built a desire for their product among many TikTok and social media consumers. 

From annual sales of $75 million a year, this change in perception catapulted Stanley’s classic Quencher tumbler to generating over $750 million in 2023. 

4. The Customers

Your customers are important, more so than anything else on this list.


(Image source)

Writing a creative brief requires a deep understanding of the target audience and its wants, desires, and tastes.

To do this, start by describing the following:

  • Demographics data (age, sex, income, marital status).
  • Psychographics data (interests, aspirations, lifestyles, habits).
  • What they think about the product and the brand right now ("boring", "fun", "not for me", etc.).
  • What you want them to think about the brand ("change perception", "shift frame of reference", etc.).
  • Frustrations, aspirations, life needs, and shared beliefs you can tap into.
  • The purpose of all this data is to find a trigger that will motivate them. This trigger should align with the campaign's objectives.

For example, to promote their Black Friday sale in 2023, Walmart released a Mean Girls-themed ad, which coincided with the hype for the new Mean Girls movie.


Aside from riding the wave of the movie’s release, this ad is successful because of several reasons:

  • Nostalgia in millennials: Including the original cast of mean girls in the ad caught the attention of millennials, who are some of the most crucial demographic for Black Friday sales to be successful
  • Hip brand perception: Walmart has been falling behind Target when it comes to having a youthful perception and has often become the subject of memes. Collaborating with Mean Girls is a good initiative to sway its current brand perception slowly

Source: Imgflip

5. The Campaign

Every campaign has a specific goal, message, and audience. It's not uncommon for brands to run several campaigns simultaneously with different messages. Your job is to understand the goals of your campaign and find a way to achieve them—that is, to define the campaign's strategy and approach.

To do this, answer the following questions:

  • What is this campaign trying to do? Increase awareness? Increase traffic? Get more shares? Be as specific as possible.
  • What customer action would make the campaign "successful"? Would you fill out a form? Click a link? Call the business?
  • What specific challenge is the campaign trying to address? State this in a single sentence. For example, "We want to advertise new features to get more trials."
  • What is your media strategy? Where will the campaign run?
  • What is the chief message for the entire campaign?

Your goal is to find the "driving idea" for the campaign and where to run it.

For example, Stanley Cups leveraged social media influencers. So, from being functional insulated cups, the perception was changed to the Quencher being a symbol of coolness and belonging. 

Source: Stanley_brand Instagram

Stanley’s social media content features aesthetic lifestyle images that attract empowered and carefree women across different age groups.

Writing creative briefs for successful campaigns might seem like a lot of research - and it is - but it is crucial. Your briefs will be off-brand without understanding the campaign, customers, and product. And if the brief is off-brand, the results will suffer. This is why I recommend getting input from several people. Ask your marketers for data and your creative team for ideas. The more information you have, the better the final brief.

In the next section, I’ll walk you through the actual process of writing a creative brief.


Creative briefs don't have a fixed format. That said, if you need a template, we’ve got you covered. You can download free creative brief templates HERE - or read on to learn how to build your own. Most agencies have their own templates. Some have a simple text document, while others use more visual designs.

Regardless of its format, your creative brief must revolve around the five elements we covered earlier.

To write the creative brief, use the following template:

1. The Project

Start your creative brief by writing a broad overview of the project. Establish the client's identity, talk about the product, and list the campaign's goals.

2. Key Challenge

Every campaign has a key challenge. This is the "what" of the project.

Describe this challenge in a few short sentences.

You might have something like this:

  • "[Client] wants to leverage a new feature to get new trials."
  • "[Client] wants to reposition the product so a new user will consider it."
  • "[Client] wants existing users to consume more of the product."

For example, here’s the key challenge in the Quaker Oats creative brief I shared earlier:

 3. Purpose of Communication

A successful campaign needs a clear and distinct purpose. This purpose should ideally be trackable and measurable and tied to the key challenge you described above.

Use this section to describe the action you want to inspire in your customers.

Try something like this:

  • "[Client] wants to increase awareness of [Product]'s new feature."
  • "[Client] wants to change opinion about [Product category]."
  • "[Client] wants to mobilize existing customers of [Product] to visit its website."

4. Competitors

As we learned above, the client's competitors have a big impact on the campaign. Use this section to describe the key competitors and their media strategies briefly.

Some things you can include about the competition here are:

5. Target Audience

Refer to the audience research you did earlier to describe the following:

  • Demographics
  • Psychographics
  • Current perception/belief about the brand
  • Target perception/belief about the brand
  • Approach for motivating them to take action

6. Background or Context

Briefly describe the background and context of the campaign. Include specific details for the following:

  • Cultural context, i.e., current events and ideas you could leverage to achieve campaign goals.
  • Category context, i.e., how customers currently see the product category and how you can change it.
  • Brand context, i.e., how customers currently see the product and its brand.

For example, this creative brief for TOMS shoes gives readers a detailed overview of the company’s background and its customers’ aspirations:

7. Tone and Brand Voice

Use adjectives to describe the tone, brand voice, and key qualities you want customers to associate with the:

  • Product ("fun, reliable, efficient")
  • Brand ("mature, trustworthy, cost-effective")

8. Media Strategy

Briefly describe how you plan to spread the message. Include the following

  • Channel(s) you'll use for the promotion.
  • Why this channel will help you reach your target audience.
  • How can you use the channel's own form and audience expectations to make the idea more shareable (such as adding "tag a friend" on Facebook)?

9. Budget

Include details about the estimated budget for the campaign. If possible, break down budget requirements by creative type and promotion.

10. Chief Message

This is the "driving idea" behind the campaign. Usually, it's a short, pithy statement that condenses the campaign into a slogan.

Think of something like this from Reebok:



Or this one from PayPal:



One way to write a better creative brief is to create a press release that you might send to journalists at the end of the campaign. You don’t have to actually use it, but it helps you consider the campaign’s goals and the approach you used to achieve them.

These are only guidelines, of course. You can change the creative brief according to your requirements. As long as your creative team understands it, you are free to include or exclude anything you want.

Workamajig has built-in support for creative briefs to make the process seamless, and of course, these can be customized according to your needs. 

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