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When your company finally has a new brand or campaign to promote, the time has come to hire a production company to create a commercial or branded piece of content for it. Whether you already have a production team on board or are still shopping around for the perfect creative partners, the first step in this collaborative process is creating an effective and inspiring creative brief for video.

What is a creative brief for video?

At its core, a creative brief for video production is a short communication from a client to a production team with a mission statement for them to execute. (“Your mission, if you choose to accept it…” Cue Mission: Impossible theme.) Most clients like fixating on the “mission statement” part; production companies prefer to focus on “short.” Counterintuitively, a creative brief is not the creative. It’s a statement of intention. 

In addition to outlining your company’s background, product, and goals, the brief also sets the tone for the endeavor ahead. At its best, it’s about passions, dreams, and chemistry. In fact, the most effective creative brief is a lot like a really good online dating profile. It shouldn’t just communicate what you want; it should tell us what you desire.

Much like an online dating profile is meant to ignite the imagination of a potential partner, the creative brief is a starting point—an invitation to join you on a journey. The  ultimate goal of the brief is to give the creative team a framework to understand your company’s needs while giving them the creative freedom to come up with concepts and ideas that will move the needle for your business. The most original and unforgettable content comes from particularly fruitful collaborations between clients and creatives who feed off each other’s wants and desires.

We’ve outlined how to approach a creative brief for video to kick off your client-creative relationship in 8 simple steps. Let’s dive in.

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1. Start with the Deadline

What’s the delivery date? Is there more than one? Are there specific calendar events to keep in mind? If there’s (somehow) no definite deadline, state that as well.

This is often a useful detail for production companies to keep in mind when brainstorming which concepts will be realistic to accomplish given certain amounts of time and resources, and which might be overambitious. 

2. Outline Your Company Background

Think of this as a sentence about your company—one that describes who you are and what your mission is. It does not need to be a comprehensive history of the company, nor a Ken Burns documentary contextualizing the brand in the cultural landscape. Like everything in this brief, keep it short!

3. State Your Target Audience

What kinds of people are you trying to reach with your content? You can be specific, but don’t bog down your answer with analysis, demographic insights, and statistics. This isn’t math class—you don’t have to show your work! A single focused sentence description almost always communicates more effectively who you want to be receiving your message. Which brings us to…

4. Articulate the Key Messaging

Now that you’ve clearly stated who your audience should be, ask yourself what they should think and feel as a result of seeing this commercial or branded content. Don’t focus on specific sales objectives (e.g. “buy this product,” “sign up to subscribe”). Instead, focus on big themes and ideas that move people emotionally (e.g. “celebration,” “family,” “security”).

Remember the plot of the movie Inception—the key messaging is like the idea that Leo and his crew must plant in your target’s mind so that it takes root and grows. Powerful feelings are almost always tied to identity. If your audience learns to associate your product or campaign not just with its immediate effects (“This travel magazine will keep you informed and entertained”) but with their own self-image (“If I read this magazine, it means I’m worldly and well-informed”) you have a winning message.

5. Inspiration: Tone + Style

What mood do you want to inspire in your audience? Is it joyfulness, serenity, silliness—perhaps even awe? Think of commercials you like, atmospheric moments from a movie or series, or even specific cultural moments that evoke powerful feelings. The building blocks that evoke these feelings are tone—atmosphere and mood—and style—the images and sounds.

Unlike the previous steps (which are short, written descriptions), the tone and style are best communicated through examples. Images, video clips, music tracks, costumes, and character looks that inspire are far more effective than explanations and should be used instead of text in most cases to get your ideas across. Pictures are worth a thousand words!

The trinity of target audience (who?), key messaging (what?), and inspiration (how?) are the beating heart and soul of the creative brief for video. Creatives at a production company will analyze your creative brief by breaking down this trio in an attempt to decode the elementary building blocks of your desires. What is the underlying goal of this communication? What are the basic ideas? The stories? The icons? The themes? The originality and ultimately much of the impact of the end product will be the direct result of the deconstruction and re-assemby of these elements.

The rest of the creative brief for video is basically a list of logistics and non-negotiables (if any). Think of these as the tiny but very important fine print at the bottom of a product label.

6. The Essentials: Location, Casting, Brand Guidelines

This is the place to specify your do-or-die requirements. These could include key phrases, jingles, slogans, icons, symbols, logos, or colors. Do you have specific casting or location requirements?  Product placement, repetition, and other brand guidelines that must be adhered to also go here. If there’s a requirement for the length of the content (total running time), include that as well.

7. Usage

Will the content be internet- or TV-based? This can be helpful for the production company to have in mind when conceptualizing how audiences will experience the content.

8. Budget

This is often best described as an upper limit.

Final Notes

To finish off, include any additional files or relevant materials and do a full edit of your creative brief. Always prioritize simple, effective communication at each step. Ensure your instructions don’t contradict. Eliminate repetitive or useless information. 

The most inspiring creative briefs for video are always brief because they imply that the ideal production partner will meet your needs more than halfway. Your goal is not to come up with anything specific about the final creative; instead, the goal is to jump-start a productive relationship that will then lead to those specifics. A pointed, passionate, and honest creative brief offers an invitation to grow your seed of an idea together. Most importantly, a shorter brief implies that you’re placing your trust in the creatives to surprise you (and, in turn, your audience!) with their vision.

Assemble has a simple creative brief builder that allows you to post a brief in minutes and begin sourcing creatives to work with. You can give it a shot here. Happy briefing!

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