Lessons from the IPA’s Modern Briefing: do’s and don’ts


Some of the team at Rocket went to the IPA’s Modern Briefing seminar recently. Andrew Scrymgeour did the note-taking:

The IPA’s Modern Briefing featured some of the biggest big wigs this side of the river discussing how and why they go about briefing within their respective fields. There were representatives from both creative and media camps who covered everything from pen portraits to love and respect so there was something in there for everyone.

The videos from the talks are available on YouTube, but I thought I’d share some of the highlights from the talk.

Opening thoughts from CONTAGIOUS

–       The most recent example of an ideal service design – Nike Fuel

–       Redbull are a media channel, not just a drink

–       Burberry are content, not just clothes

–       Understanding the consumer journey is essential to agency success

–       We (as brands) play a part in people’s lives, and don’t dominate them

–       Brands and NGO’s are filling in the gaps that government misses

–       Chipotle and organic farming, supports their agenda

Glyn Britton Albion – @glyndot

–       Processes can be very tricky where the outcome isn’t known, it could be anything from an app to ad?

–       We don’t work well when something too complicated, so simplicity is key

–       The Waterfall (process) is bad at solving large business problems (i.e. sequential, one thing leads to the next)

–       An Agile (process) which is more flexible, can often unlock creativity

–       The client needs to be integrated, and brief up front may not always work. You can work with clients to develop briefs organically

–       Shared knowledge is a must in big agencies; creative/media/PR doesn’t matter

–       There are many answers, not just one. Ideas get weeded out to leave with one result

DO: try version numbering your briefs i.e. v0.1 says ‘this is early thinking and will change’. It transforms teams’ understanding of the brief and briefing process

DON’T: forget the philosophy. Process is only part of the answer; people will have to want to work this way. Think about the best way to motivate them.

Michael Dick – MEC

What is insight? Don’t let it be confused with simple facts

–       Clear and simple; with some lateral thinking is often the most effective

–       Is the insight actionable, if so, how and how are we going to test success?

–       Inspiration is the life blood of creativity

–       Tradition briefs have been linear, which lend themselves to hierarchical structures i.e. I do this, then you do this and so forth

–       Avoid tunnel vision – It’s not the light at the end of the tunnel, but the light from within the tunnel

–       The modern world is not linear and involves different points of view (multifaceted)

–       Live and fast, like FB move fast and break things

–       Intuition is more powerful than rational

DO: allow room for insights to evolve from all relevant corners of the communications mix

DON’T: bet everything on a single insight, be less linear and more holistic

Richard Huntington – Saatchi & Saatchi London @adliterate

–       The consumer’s is not a moron, she’s your wife

–       6 notes to self

  • Kill the caricatures and ridiculous pen portraits
  • Behaviour has to change
  • Deliver revelations
  • Talk about what you love, what interests them?
  • A question of influence
  • Love and respect your audience

–       Tell me stuff and don’t know and make me love them, don’t just call them “punters”

–       Empathy is important

–       In the humanity business, not just the advertising business

DO: understand the context of people’s lives, the content they love, the technology they depend on and the role that both play. This is immeasurably helpful in opening up the nature of the solution

DON’T: continue peddling pen portraits and artificial segmentation rather than real stories about real people

Patricia McDonald – Isobar @PatsMC

–       Participation is the currency in the modern campaign

–       Light, easy participation is what consumers are usually after

–       A business problem is a behavioural problem in disguise

–       Change behaviour then then can change the world

–       What would we like them to do, rather the need to (two very different questions)

–       Think about their network, and the behaviour between people and brands

–       What is their motivation to share? If they don’t have one, we can’t expect them to

–       What is the single thing they would like to say?
DO: translate the business problem into a behavioural change

DON’T: forget to balance effort versus reward. What are we offering users in exchange for their time

Jason Gonsalves – BBH

–       Liberate and focus of creative thinking

–       Work should be interactive, collaborative and stimulating

–       Account planning + media planning + u/x design gives a fully integrated idea

–       Media channels, aren’t channels they are just media

–       Media is far too important to be left to media agencies, it’s culture, the very fabric of society

–       Redbull invest in media platforms, not traditional media advertising

–       Identify how and where people congregate

–       Create the media that is best expresses the media

–       Buildings direct people through space and so does media

–       Imagination is more important than knowledge

DO: take responsibility for media decisions and create a collaborative dialogue between media and creative agencies

DON’T: leave mean thinking to become and after-thought, only to be considered once you’ve got some ads and you’re thinking about placing them

Dan Southern– Contagious @Dboy

–       Move to doing,  and should avoid the “we should do”

–       Client boundaries are changing as we become more integrated into their business

–       Be more collaborative in all areas of work

–       Make it scary, empowered people to win.

DO: Know the limitations of a trend. Make them part of your research but be sure to argue, prod, probe and dissect them. It’s important to lift the lid and understand the drivers (social, economic, technological etc.) that make them tick

DON’T: get sucked into the ‘Dude we should do….this funky new thing’ philosophy. Always lead the discussion with the customer experience and not the innovation

If you want to watch for yourself, feel free to check out their videos on YouTube.

Posted by Andrew Scrymgeour, Head of Strategy, Rocket; @andrewscrym


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