Brief Encounters | The Blogfather | ...Gasp!


Too often briefs are a way of passing a problem along to the creative department. So, what’s the solution?

A recap of a rowdy rendezvous between …Gasp! co-founder and Creative Director, Giles Edwards, and a pair of pesky pals across the pond, The Brief Bros.

Not long ago, …Gasp! Co-founder and Creative Director and the host of Call to Action, Giles Edwards, met with a pesky pair of pals known as The Brief Bros. The boot was very much on the other foot as the “bros” volleyed a tonne of tough posers his way. We recap the rowdy rendezvous below.

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Howard Ibach and Henry Gomez, aka The Brief Bros, invited Giles to sit down with them and shoot the breeze on a ton of topics, including why marketers should rub shoulders with real people, why he hates the industry almost as much as he loves it, and, as you might expect from a podcast called The Brief Bros, all things creative briefing.

Mentioning creative briefing in ad land should come with a warning. Ask how to brief better and you’ll soon be bombarded and battered with templates, tirades, and tweets. All claiming they have the answer. The secret sauce to slather your brief in that’ll make it, dare I say, perfect.

On the flip side, even with so-called solutions and tried and tested templates, creative briefs are often treated as a form-filling exercise. Giles says…

“Too often briefs are used as a way of literally lobbing a problem into a creative department without any intelligence.”

Dave Trott famously said, “A brief is not about writing, it’s about thinking.” When asked by Howard how he briefs at …Gasp!, Giles insists there’s no perfect brief template. And, that he can’t improve on the existing brief templates. Something that’s become a box-ticking exercise for new strategists keen to make their mark at an agency.

“We’ve become so busy trying to invent our own things and our own templates, and ignore the decades of really smart people who have already done all that. So let’s build, let’s not try and reinvent things”

At …Gasp!, we often rely on a BBH briefing template from (around) 1964 and one from JWT in the 70s. We’re yet to improve on either of them. What Giles particularly loves about both briefing templates is that they are nearly enough impossible to complete unless you’ve really thought about the client and the problem we’re trying to address.

The question “What is the single most important thing this advertising should convey?” forces the person writing the brief to distil their thinking into as few words as possible. As Henry says, “they can’t cover their ass with too many words”. At …Gasp! we call this “trimming the fat”.

Copywriter and author, Andrew Boulton, who we work closely with at …Gasp! refuses to read briefs. Our briefs at least. He’ll read a text, Whatsapp message, or Tweet. And it forces us to brief him in so few words that we have to distil it right down to the one thing we really want and need back from him.

Howard says when agencies say their brief template isn’t working they’re probably wrong. There’s nothing wrong with your template, it’s your answers that need fixing. Most briefs generally have the same questions disguised in different ways. But, it’s not the questions, it’s the quality of the answers that make a good brief.

You can listen to the full podcast here.

Open your ears and let the smarts pour in as Giles, Howard and Henry discuss what Giles has learnt interviewing nearly 100 guests on Call to Action, why there’s no “right” way into the industry, the value of rubbing shoulders with real people, understanding the indifference of customers, the brand loyalty debate, TV isn’t dying it’s having babies, the fundamentals remaining true, how Giles ended up co-founding …Gasp!, hating the industry almost as much as we love it, brand purpose versus commercial purpose, the role of creative briefs, briefing templates and why they do and don’t work, the problem with procurement and why you don’t have to like an ad for it to work. Kapish?

For even more, listen to Call to Action with…

Cameron Day

Steve Harrison

Nick Asbury

Andrew Boulton

Paul Feldwick

Here’s our They Might Be Right pod special on loyalty.

Pick up a copy of Steve Harrison’s Can’t Sell Won’t Sell

Here’s …Gasp! Book Copywriting Is by Andrew Boulton

And check out the two briefing templates Giles swears by…

JWT Creative Brief

BBH Creative Brief


(0:44) Introduction

(2:40) What’s the most surprising thing Giles has learned from interviewing nearly 100 guests on Call to Action?

(4:45) Why we intentionally ask every guest to describe their route into the industry

(8:46) Why rubbing shoulders with real people is so valuable for marketers

(18:25) Does brand loyalty exist?

(24:31) The tools are evolving but the fundamentals remain true

(27:06) The history of …Gasp! as an agency

(3059) Hating the industry almost as much as we love it

(34:45) Why we shouldn’t be ashamed of commercial purpose

(39:54) The role of creative briefs at …Gasp!

(46:51) The reality of creative brief templates

(1:04:02) Why …Gasp! doesn’t present more than one creative route to clients

(1:06:28) Why marketers need to remove the word “like” from their vocabulary

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