Best practice guide unveiled to tackle ineffective briefs

With 26% of budgets being wasted on poor briefs and misdirected work, a new guide has been devised to help marketers deliver better briefs.

The BetterBriefs project has launched a best practice guide to tackle industry shortcomings, as new research finds UK marketers waste more than a quarter (26%) of their budget on poor briefs and misdirected work.

Co-authored by Marketing Week columnist Mark Ritson and produced in partnership with the IPA, ‘The best way for a client to brief an agency’ guide aims to offer practical ways to help marketers write better briefs. Released today (6 July) at the IPA’s Business Growth conference, the guide seeks to create a shared understanding with agencies about what makes a good brief.

Results from BetterBriefs’ new survey suggest the guide is badly needed. The survey of 508 UK marketers and agency staff found only 6% of UK agencies are clear on the strategic direction in the briefs they receive from their clients. Almost three-quarters (73%) of agencies think the briefs they receive from brands aren’t good enough.

There is also ambiguity around the target audience in many briefs, the research reveals. Only around four in 10 (38%) UK creative agencies are clear on the target group in the briefs they receive from clients, with around a third (34%) of UK marketers unclear on this themselves.

The horror of marketers’ strategic bankruptcy is about to be laid bare

The failure of marketers to deliver clear briefs to their agencies was demonstrated in previous global research by BetterBriefs, released in October 2021. The data uncovered a decided mismatch between the majority of marketers (78%) who thought their briefs provided clear direction to their agencies, and the just 5% of agencies who agreed.

The research from October 2021, which surveyed 1,700 marketers and agency staff from more than 70 countries, found that while there were mismatched views between agencies and marketers on the clarity of briefs, both agreed they are a neglected tool.

The vast majority of both agencies (92%) and marketers (90%) said while the brief is the most valuable tool in creating good work, it is also the most neglected.

Commenting on some of these statistics in October, Ritson warned a lack of strategy when pitching was not confined to junior marketers.

“Don’t go thinking that this is a mistake just made by junior marketers at smaller companies. Many of the mightiest CMOs at the biggest brands are just as guilty,” he said.

The new research released by BetterBriefs today confirms the marketers responsible for writing briefs don’t necessarily lack experience or seniority. The survey finds 74% are over 35 years old; 72% have more than 10 years’ experience as a marketer; and 64% carry the title of ‘senior’ or ‘director’.

The new guide aims to help rectify the issues with the briefing process, containing chapters on the importance of briefs, marketing strategy shaping briefs, writing briefs and briefing the brief.

Improving the agency/marketer relationship

Clear and concise briefs are one aspect that can help both parties get the most out of the agency/client relationship.

The IPA has also released a whitepaper looking at the wider relationship between agencies and marketers. Entitled ‘Partnering for Growth’ and authored by Only Dead Fish founder Neil Perkin, the paper says the key to successful agency/client relationships is nourishing the S.O.U.L. – Shared Foundation, Organisation, Understanding and Learning – between the organisations.

In May, the IPA and ISBA set out to make relationships between agencies and advertisers more pleasant and productive by improving the pitch process. The Pitch Positive Pledge has 70 signatories across advertisers, agencies and intermediaries, including 14 brands. The brands signed up include the likes of Boots, British Gas, NatWest and Samsung.

Boots CMO Pete Markey described the initiative as a great way of achieving “mutual respect in the pitch process”, while NatWest CMO and ISBA president Margaret Jobling welcomed how the initiative took into account all aspects of the pitch process.

“The consideration of all aspects of the pitch process and how different behaviours can both positively and negatively impact the final outcome is a unique approach. It’s a pleasure to be able to add our name as signatories,” she said.