The main problems are a lack of clarity of thought and an inspiring proposition. These arise because sometimes the brief-writer isn't clear why they're really asking for this piece of communication, or what they really want to say, or who they really want to say it to. But, most of all they don't know why anyone should believe them.
So they write briefs that offer their creative teams, and their consumers', too many choices. Then they use the creative offering to whittle down to what they think they should say.
"Actually, that wasn't really what I had in mind... What I think we really should be saying, maybe, is ....."
Of course it's not always that bad. Some creative briefs are perfect.
But every year, the Super Bowl ad-fest inspires me to ask this question:
How does a Super Bowl Ad Brief differ from the Common Client Ad Brief?
And, with so many eyes on these ads, why is that some just don't hit the mark, some are bad, and some are amazing?
In 2013, when I first wrote an article on this question, I picked up a quote from a Bloomberg's Business Week article entitled : "Game on: Super Bowl ads are already playing online". It was from David Lubars, chairman and chief creative officer of BBDO North America, who "advises keeping an ad simple and honest. “It should also be an easy, reductionist message,” says Lubars. “You’re getting a canvas that 120 million people will see. You have to go where nobody has gone before. The ad has to be single-minded, relevant, funny, and emotional. If it’s done right, $4 million (for a 30 - sec spot) is a bargain. I would say 90 percent of the people running ads are wasting their money.”
So back to my question. Is the brief different?
The Common Client Ad Brief also claims to want to be original, single minded, relevant and emotionally engaging, right? So what's the big difference? Truthfully, having never seen a Super Bowl brief, I have no idea.
Maybe it's because the agencies recognise that this is THE brief and assign their best teams to work on it? But even that doesn't always deliver great work. Even if the Super Bowl Ad brief is perceived by the agencies to be much cooler and high-stakes with more chance of creative risk-taking than the average Common Client Brief, then why do some of the Super Bowl ads come out boring, done-before, irrelevant and imminently forgettable?
It seems that the enormous viewership might have something to do with it. Possibly a bit of stage fright and a trying-too-hard aspect? Or a client wanting to cover all their bases to justify the enormous spend?
My two cents worth would be that there's too much playing to the masses and too much losing sight of the one person that actually counts - the person who may do something, buy something, think something, as a result of your ad.
Two ads I thought hit the mark are the Avo's from Mexico ad, and the No More (NFL sponsored) ad against domestic abuse, which used a real life story.
Both ads are disruptive, fresh, single-minded, and totally relevant. One is funny, one is deeply chilling. Both speak to the truth of the message. Both address, in totally different ways, an interesting insight. They have both managed to create an ongoing dialogue, online, offline, in people's hearts and minds, about what the ad actually spoke to us about.
Both ads are personal, using different techniques and totally different approaches. Yet both managed to communicate clearly to the 120million plus audience. Budweiser's "Lost Puppy", BMW's "New fangled idea" made me cry and laugh, but were more expected than the ones above. And as for Carl Jr's "All Natural", the less said the better. (#didwejustgobacktothe80's?)
Whether the ad was a hit or a miss (I loved Dove's "Salute to Dads", but the product segment at the end felt like a sledgehammer), here's what I like to imagine sets a Super Bowl brief apart form a Common Creative Brief:
- The client (and agency) are aiming for GREAT. You have a much better chance of getting there if you aim for it, than if you don't.
- It's presumably agreed upfront that the ad has to be entertaining with exceptional production values (with budget allowed for) - great advice for the Common Brief to borrow from.
- The ad aims to be memorable, relevant and engaging. Tick, tick and tick.
- It simply has to be distinctive. And talk-able, and shareable. And that means some brave decisions need to be made in the approvals process.
- The message has to be totally singleminded.
- Time has been invested in mining a really strong insight about the consumers motivations or beliefs in the category.
- A powerful proposition and very clear brand positioning are the cornerstones.
Maybe we should treat each ad brief like a Super Bowl brief and see what happens to the work?
ps. I am not a fan of the 'reveal' of the ad prior to the Superbowl. It takes away so much of the excitement I used to feel on the big day if I've already seen them the week before. #justsaying