Digital marketing strategy

How to brief a marketing agency

Digital marketing strategy

How to brief a marketing agency

How to brief a marketing agency

So often do marketers look at a brief and say “that’ll do”, not realising how crucial it is to get it right from the get go. 80% of markets think they are good at writing briefs, while only 10% of agencies agree. A brief is a tool to give an agency the right information so that it can come back with the best possible solution. However, often we find that what is briefed lacks direction at best and is confusing at worst. 

This blog is a guide to help you (the client) write the best possible briefs for your agency. 

The importance of briefs

Poor briefs don’t allow agencies to solve problems or seize opportunities highlighted by marketers. Unchallenged, poor briefs trigger a chain reaction of negative consequences such as leading to confusion, shallow creative and mediocre ideas, which leads to unhappy clients, countless rounds of edits and even full re-briefs which can often result in less effective work in-market. A BetterBriefs Study found that one third of all marketing budgets are potentially wasted due to poor briefs and misdirected work. 

A good brief, however, defines what the brand wants and agency to do. It clearly defines the boundaries for creative thinking, sets clear expectations and provides essential information. If there isn’t a well-defined marketing strategy in place, there can be no brief. 

Strategy before anything else 

A crazy 95% of marketers don’t provide strategic direction to their agencies. It is fundamental for marketers to have a clearly defined and simple to digest strategy before moving onto brief writing. There are three main things that strategies need to focus on: Targeting (who), Positioning (what) and Objectives (how). 

Targeting (Who?) 

It is crucial for brands to know exactly who the brand is going to be targeting and equally clear on who they are not. Get a picture of who your audience is, where they live, what they are interested in, etc… This will help you understand what they want and how they make their decisions to purchase your product or service. 

Positioning (What?) 

The main aim of positioning is  to create the thought or idea of what your brand stands for in the mind of your target audience. It's important to focus on your distinct branding and the messaging you intend your brand to stand for. 

Objectives (How?) 

These strategies are just as important in defining what you are not going to do, as what you want to achieve.  Do not over complicate or overcrowd your list of objectives. Keep them simple and a handful at most. These objectives should be simple, yet written smartly - with benchmarks, realistic goals and a timestamp to track your progress. 


Brief Writing

A brief clarifies the need for advertising and establishes the expectations from the agency as well as the marketer. It is the responsibility of the marketer to provide a clear strategic direction in every brief, that clearly defines their choices of strategy whether that be acquiring new customers, increasing sales, etc… When writing a brief, there should only be one clear strategy. Multiple strategies means there needs to be multiple briefs. 

Any brief needs a foundation consisting of the following: Objectives, Target Audience and the Budget. These set the parameters of what is possible for the campaign and its limitations.  “The objectives shape the budget. The budget determines the audience size, and the size of the audience must be able to realise the objective while staying within budget” (BetterBriefs, 2022). Below is a list of fundamentals and tips to help guide brief writing: 

Set linked objectives

In order to set the direction of the brief, there are three types of objectives that must be considered: 

  • Commercial objectives: these focus on the ultimate effect the activity will have on the business (e.g. sales, sign ups, etc…) 
  • Behavioural objectives: these specify the change in people behaviour in order to realize the commercial objective (e.g. signing up for newsletter) 
  • Attitudinal objectives: shifting the way people think or feel that triggers the behaviour change. 

Target the right people

Discussed earlier, it is so important for brands to be selective about who they target. The audience definitions need to be meaningfully different from the general population and need to be a sufficient size to satisfy the objectives (HubSpot, 2021)

Messaging and proof points 

Your message is only as strong as the truth that sits behind it. Keep it simple, and easy to digest. A good brief will have one key message and they are supported only by my relevant proof points. However, the number of proof points used can vary by channel. 

Keep the brief brief 

Keep it simple, but clear. It should consist of everything you need to know and nothing you don’t. 54% of agencies agree that briefs are too long, 32% too short and only 14% concise (BetterBriefs)

Write and rewrite

Your first draft will never be the best brief. Re-look at it overnight, review and refine your work - feel free to share it and get others to review. Fresh eyes can work wonders for the final product. 


Brief writing is an art form in itself, and sometimes can be more difficult than one would think. However, if you keep the above points in mind, you will see a significant improvement in the quality as well as the reception of the brief from agencies.