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But I fulfilled the brief!

Jess Kaye, Our FMCG Growth Director, is talking about the importance of interrogating a brief.


Jess Kaye



Okay, we all know how vital briefing is and the need for clarity.

From my experience client side, we always spent a fair bit of training time on briefs. Agency side, the briefing process seems to be a revolving door of documentation. No brief, no work. Right?

But even the clearest briefs are open to interpretation (creative license?). Just because a brief exists, doesn’t mean we are on the same page with it.

This was all brought to life for me quite sharply – not by a work situation but by my eight-year-old.

I keep horses and one of the larger, more accident-prone models lost a shoe in the field. Finding it is a laborious job, basically involving a lot of walking up and down, scanning for the cast shoe. I’d happily pay someone else to do it. So, I offer my eight-year-old a crème egg if she can bring me the horseshoe from the field.

I congratulate myself on a) keeping her occupied and b) her doing a job for me that she will be paid in something she loves. Win win, yes?

At this point I should reveal I am also quite smug knowing that I won’t be giving her a full crème egg, just a mini one. But I’m disguising this as ‘responsible parenting’.

Fast forward about 20 minutes and, hey presto, mission accomplished. She’s fulfilled the brief in double quick time, presenting me with the horseshoe.

But this was not THE horseshoe.

It was A horseshoe, sure - a VERY old, very rusty horseshoe.

I see what’s happened here. She, being her mother’s daughter, spotted an old horseshoe leaned up against the gate.

Never missing an opportunity to loaf, she has just spent a very pleasant half hour mooching about, scratching her pony and feeding him polos. After the ‘allotted reasonable time’ (i.e. when she got bored and really wanted that crème egg), she shows up expecting to be presented with her spoils.

I asked for a horseshoe.

She wanted a crème egg.

Neither of us are happy.

Neither of us has the right to complain.

We have both technically ‘answered the brief’ but an average outcome. We both wish we’d been a bit more specific.

How many briefs have we all had that go a bit like this?

It is so important to be clear upfront, even when the job seems obvious. Not in a transactional way, but so that all parties end up with what they expected.

Failure to interrogate the brief; jumping straight to action before you are really sure of the task and the measurement of success is pretty foolhardy.

That’s my lesson learned. From an eight-year-old.


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