Book Review: How To Write An Inspired Creative Brief (2nd Edition)

Why Howard Ibach's Book Is Essential Reading In Every Ad Agency

Creative Brief Book
How To Write An Inspired Creative Brief. Howard Ibach

When constructing a house, you must lay a solid foundation. Without it, no matter how impressive your building is, it will fall to pieces.

The creative brief is the foundation of any advertising campaign. So, to say it must be done well is a massive understatement. It is, without a doubt, the most important document that will ever be created in the process of making an ad.

And yet, with this in mind, there are very few books written on the subject of creative brief writing.

Actually, there are just two. They are the first and second editions of Howard Ibach’s book “How To Write An Inspired Creative Brief.”

The first edition of the book, released in 2009, transformed the way many agencies around the world look at the creative brief. It's the reason it's #1 on the Advertising Channel's must read list. Now, Howard Ibach has expanded on the original text, resulting in a book that is a must-read for every advertising professional working today.

It’s not a hard book to read. You can get through it in an afternoon, and it’s written with such a deftly casual tone that it doesn’t feel like work. In fact, it feels more like a great creative director sitting down with you, and telling you everything you’ve been waiting to hear.

It’s also a book that serves as ammunition to any creative professional who has received subpar briefs. When you first read the phrase “if you do not have a strategy, you cannot write a creative brief,” you can feel the cold shivers being sent down the spines of account executives everywhere.

And that’s only the beginning.

From that point on, you are guided carefully through the creative brief writing process. This is not one of those books that point out a multitude of problems without offering any real solutions. Instead, it’s a journey of discovery, first showing you just why the creative brief is so important, before imparting the knowledge to write a great one.

No…an inspired one.

Howard lays out a “template” for a creative brief, being careful to point out that it’s not, in fact, a template at all. It’s a starting point for your own inspired creative brief.

As anyone familiar with inspired creative briefs will know, it is the first ad ever produced for a campaign. As Howard points out, “the creative brief is a print ad that offers the first creative thinking for the copywriter and art director.”

If the brief is truly inspiring, the single-minded proposition (SMP) can simply be written verbatim on a shot of the product or service, and it will give you an ad.

Will it be a good ad? Maybe. But it’s a starting point. It’s saying “X marks the spot; dig here.” And with that as your guide, you can guarantee great creative thinking every time.

You will also get samples of great briefs, discover what makes a bad creative brief, and learn how to convince the people around you to write better ones. That, in itself, can be an uphill task, as any frustrated copywriter or art director will know.

Make no mistake, although the book is an easy read, writing an inspired creative brief is no simple task. In fact, it’s so difficult that it’s almost certainly the reason only one book is dedicated to it.

In the world’s best agencies, more time is dedicated to the writing of the brief than is given to the creation of the ads.

For those of you thinking “that’s just dumb,” read Howard’s book.

For those of you thinking “it sounds like the brief writer is doing all the hard work,” read Howard’s book.

For those of you thinking “we can’t dedicate that kind of time to a creative brief,” read Howard’s book.

In a nutshell, this is a book that can improve the quality of the work coming out of your agency within weeks. And at the same time, improve the morale of everyone, from the sullen copywriter who’s tired of being given flimsy direction, to the creative director exhausted from showing the client work that “isn’t quite what we were looking for.”

You can buy the first edition of “How To Write An Inspired Creative Brief” through Howard’s site. The 2nd Edition is released in June, and it is a stunning improvement on the original. Order several copies, and make them required reading.

On behalf every creative working in advertising today, thank you, Howard Ibach. This is a book no one wanted to write, but everyone wanted to read.