Today I tweeted a link from an article in Forbes.com about what it means for an advertising agency to win the “coveted” Agency of The Year award. It’s not a nice picture. It confirms what we already know: the agency business has been facing the threat of profit erosion.
Let me quote:
The economics of the advertising business in recent years have forced some agencies to compete on the basis of price by underbidding their competitors, so revenues can be depressed even further in order to win a “big” account.
It’s impossible to shorten the revision cycles if we don’t get client’s brief right from the very beginning.
Clients brief advertising agencies because they have a problem. They believe that communication can solve this problem. Yet too many times, I see that when agency people are taking client’s brief, they spend more time getting very specific on what the orders are, instead of clarifying what the problem is.
We should be conscious about the fundamental objective of client’s briefing session. It is about making sure we know exactly what the problem the client is trying to solve with communication. Using a metaphor, the way we behave during client’s briefing session should model a diagnostician, not a concierge.
I’m taking this medical metaphor further. If we read Atul Gawande’s The Checklist Manifesto (or his initial article) we learn that a humble checklist can massively help the experts to get better understanding on what the patient’s problems are.
I believe this goes the same with advertising, an even more mundane enterprise compared to surgery or medical emergency. I believe we can be better at taking client’s brief if we use a checklist to guide us.
This is my proposal of what that checklist looks like. The main inspiration of this checklist comes from Dave Trott’s writing on The Binary Brief.
Of course it is not meant to replace training and to dismiss the importance of strategy or creativity. Please feel free to use it and even modify it to suit your own practice.
Download the client briefing checklist here (in PDF).