Thursday, June 25, 2009

A classic planning story about creative brief writting: The Sistine Chapel Brief

This is a classic account planning story about brief writing written by Damian O'Malley. It first appeared in "How to Plan Advertising - the Blue Book", published by the APG, 1987 and exists now on Tweaking a few words and adding some pictures, Steven Stark has created a power point version. You can download that document here and also find it below:

And here at RSOAP we added some summary speech bubble's and just a bit more graphics to Stephen Stark's great presentation.
A Classic Example of How to Write Effective Creative Briefs


The Brief for the Sistine Chapel

Written by Damian O'Malley, Interpreted by Steven Stark

When you have a proposition you should try to express it in a way that will propel your creative team towards a solution. Here is a story to help illustrate what this means. Everyone knows the frescoes that were painted on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel by Michelangelo. They are among the greatest works of art of all time. You can imagine the briefs he might have been given for this work by his client, Pope Julius II, or the Pope’s account man, Cardinal Alidosi:

Brief #1: Please paint the ceiling.
There is no doubt that this is what Michelangelo was being asked to do, but this brief gives him no hints as to what the solution to the request might be. It leaves all the decisions and thinking to the artist before he can put paint to plaster.

Brief #2: Please paint the ceiling using red, green and yellow paint.
This brief is worse. Not only does it not tell him what to paint it gives him a number of restrictions without justification; restrictions which will inevitably prove irksome and which will distract him from his main task.

Brief #3: We’ve got terrible problems with cracks in the ceiling. Can you cover it up for us?
This is much worse. It still does not tell him what to do and it gives him irrelevant and depressing information that implies no one is interested in what he paints because it won’t be long before the ceiling falls in anyway. How much effort is he likely to put into it?

Brief #4: Please paint biblical scenes on the ceiling incorporating some or all of the following: God, Adam, angels, cupids, devils and saints.
Better: now they are beginning to give Michelangelo some direction. They have not given him the full picture yet (pardon the pun) but at least he knows the important elements. This is the sort of brief that most of us would have given. It contains everything the creative needs to know, but it does not go that one step beyond, towards an idea and a solution.

Here is the brief that Michelangelo was actually given:
Please paint our ceiling for the greater glory of God and as an inspiration and lesson to his people.
Michelangelo took this brief and painted frescoes which depicted the creation of the world, the fall, mankind’s degradation by sin, the divine wrath of the deluge and the preservation of Noah and his family. He knew what to do—and was inspired by the importance of the project. With direction like this he was free to devote his attention to executing the details of the brief in the best way he knew how.

Words are little bombs: the right ones can explode inside us, demanding an original and exciting solution instead of a mediocre, pedestrian one. Always work very, very hard to find the right proposition and then even harder to find the words which express it in the least ambiguous and most exciting way.


Alison Burns
Introduction to 40 years of Planning
Alison Burns: Introduction to Planning begins at 40 from JWT on Vimeo.

Jeremy Bullmore
In Praise of Antinomies
Jeremy Bullmore: In praise of Antinomies from JWT on Vimeo.

John Grant
Planning's Midlife Crisis?
John Grant: Planning's Midlife Crisis? from JWT on Vimeo.

Jon Steel
Planning at 40: Solving the Wrong Problems
Jon Steel: Planning at 40: Solving the wrong problems from JWT on Vimeo.

Guy Murphy
‘What Would Stephen Say?’
Guy Murphy:'What would Stephen say?' from JWT on Vimeo.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Lectures from Parsons School of Design:

Tim Stock's Lectures from Parsons School of Design Strategies


Culture Networks (Lecture)

The Structure of Trends (Lecture)


Just had an amazing meeting with Scenario DNA. Here's some links to their great thinking.
Consumers are gaining knowledge. They are wisening up to the real meaning behind green. They understand tradeoffs vs. trivial. They’re at the brink of growing green deaf.
When it comes to luxury, much like the emperor staring in the mirror at his non-existent new clothes, luxury is at its crossroads.
Recession Washing 2009 | VIEW SLIDESHOW NEW
Fast on the heels of green washing, recession washing will test marketers not to push empty messages in tough times.
Understanding Gen Y Narrative: The Transformer Generation | VIEW SLIDESHOW (Fall 2008) The narrative that Gen Y shares with Transformers is an open-source story of collaboration, new globalism, a currency of culture, eBay economics and mash-up. In this contemporaneous tale, the impact of technology blurs the lines from urban/suburban and east/west.
Tried and texted approach to getting consumers talking | Admap January '09 | DOWNLOAD
... it means using an authentic organic approach to understanding the consumer in their world. Unfortunately, for some brands and agencies, it means taking shortcuts on research.
“Admap articles reproduced with permission of Admap, the world’s primary source of strategies for effective advertising, marketing and research. To subscribe visit © Copyright Admap.”

Green: Co-mingling Perspectives | VIEW SLIDESHOW (Fall 2008)
In the midst of economic crisis, the concept of Green becomes tightly interwoven with old school recession planning. Our research has found three distinct personas that are driving green concepts side-by-side. A fourth persona is ironically pushing back, but following a tenet of self-reliance. Together they’ll make green grow more mainstream. Secret Vices and Depression-style DIY will be the backlash as green gets too slick.Redefining Luxury: From Excess to Stealth | VIEW SLIDESHOW (Spring 2008)
Tried and texted approach to getting consumers talking | Admap | DOWNLOAD
... it means using an authentic organic approach to understanding the consumer in their world. Unfortunately, for some brands and agencies, it means taking shortcuts on research. The result is that recruitment loses its balance, time in the field is diminished and incentives dwindle. There are no shortcuts when it comes to dealing with real people. Good research requires a relationship to coax information out of people and there’s no easy way to do it. Optimising budgets is crucial in the current market conditions

Casting Confident Brands |
Too often product placement is not seen as part of the overall longterm brand strategy. The thought is to get it in and get it visible. But we know the rules have changed and the consumer is filtering out more and more messages, as the media landscape becomes more and more cluttered. To get past this is all about finding the ideal venue to demonstrate honestly the 'coolness' of the brand. As video-on-demand and mobile content delivery evolve from mass to niche market, it becomes easier to alienate people. Now we need to get closer and focus in to get these new techniques to work.

How to Market Brands in a People Economy |
Brand marketers are in the midst of a fundamental shift in human behaviour and consumption. Getting increasingly more elusive and enabled by networked personal technology, consumers are moving from mass market to multiplying custom markets. Today's emerging demographic segments and affinities devalue traditional consumer market boxes.

Can Consumers Own the Brand? | Admap | DOWNLOAD
Exactly who is holding the reins on brands these days? Does it really matter? Or should branding be more about the way a campaign evolves, rather than from whom or where? With everyone talking about how much power the consumer wields, the advertising industry is in desperate need of embedded consumer insight.

“Admap articles reproduced with permission of Admap, the world’s primary source of strategies for effective advertising, marketing and research. To subscribe visit © Copyright Admap.”

What Unites Global Youth | Young Consumers | DOWNLOAD
There are emerging similarities in youth culture across the globe, in particular technology is a focus. The brands and styles preferred by youth around the world are surprisingly alike. The more exposure young people have to common information, for example through the internet, the more homogeneous they appear to become.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

A new media platform. An amazing new gaming interface from Xbox. (Just announced on JUNE 15th at the E3 2009 Microsoft conference)

Xbox's Project Netal! Still a prototype right now, but this is something you should keep track of.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Hiring Account Planners: A look at posted job descriptions from the past month

Account Planning Director at Digitas

Job Description

Join the Digitas Planning team to uncover breakthrough customer insights, and help turn them into big creative marketing ideas!
Do you have experience developing and applying breakthrough customer insight within a creative agency? How about exceptional thinking, communication and influence skills, leadership, and energy? Digitas is recruiting an Account Planning Director who continues to push the frontier of how digital media can evolve to meet the needs of an ever more powerful consumer. The Account Planning Director is the customer insight lead for Digitas clients with 3 primary responsibilities:
- Leveraging customer insight to help the team come up with great creative marketing ideas
- Helping our clients make the most of the evolving digital landscape
- Being a champion of the client’s brand
You should have solid experience working in a marketing and/or strategic services organization, such as a digital marketing or advertising agency or brand consultancy, and be passionate about applying cutting edge qualitative methodology to the development of insight. An understanding of marketing strategy and disciplines and a clear view on how each aspect of the marketing mix can and should be applied to the client’s business is necessary as is a clear understanding of specific digital marketing disciplines and how digital marketing can work and should be applied within the broader marketing context.
If you feel you could be a key partner in communication and implementing the Digitas planning vision across the network and our clients’ businesses get in touch!


You should have solid experience working in a marketing and/or strategic services organization, such as a digital marketing or advertising agency or brand consultancy, and be passionate about applying cutting edge qualitative methodology to the development of insight. An understanding of marketing strategy and disciplines and a clear view on how each aspect of the marketing mix can and should be applied to the client’s business is necessary as is a clear understanding of specific digital marketing disciplines and how digital marketing can work and should be applied within the broader marketing context.
If you feel you could be a key partner in communication and implementing the Digitas planning vision across the network and our clients’ businesses get in touch!


Title: Sr. Account Planner
Location: San Francisco, California 94105

ATTIK, a Division of Dentsu America, with clients the like of Scion, NFL, Sony Online and various emerging technology companies, is looking for a Senior Account/Strategic Planner with 8-10 years of planning experience to work on Scion and other youth brands. Automotive and ad agency experience is required. Product launch experience a plus.

The Sr. Account Planner will be adept at defining and understanding target audiences, their lifestyles, the decisions they make and their relationship with brands. You will be responsible for uncovering core insights into the attitudes and behavior of the consumer, bringing this to bear on creative briefs that are focused, concise, logical and creatively inspiring.

The ideal candidate is comfortable in a highly creative, fast-paced environment where insights often have to be found in non-traditional ways.

Account Exec/Junior Planner
at Circus London

Job Description - Brief:
An insightful analyst/researcher, an excellent communicator with an empathy for brand/communications and strategy, a well organised team player

Broad responsibilities:
• to support Associates/Senior Associates in delivering insightful brand strategy and communications projects
• to undertake primary and secondary research for projects
• to undertake one-on-one stakeholder interviews
• to plan appropriate research methodologies with an Associate/senior Associate
• to undertake day-to-day client contact
• to interrogate research & market data, extract insights and communicate those insights internally and to the client
• to write appropriate summaries and presentations for the investigate phase
• to deliver their contribution on time, to budget and in the spirit of the Circus brand engagement® ethos

Key attributes:

• brand literate
• ability to assimilate and interrogate data
• commercial and business minded
• ability to work across all disciplines
• excellent communicator (verbal and written)
• good project and people management skills
• budgetary and financial awareness
• well organised
• confident and pro-active

Company Description:
A Circus person is exceptional. S/he is a strategic thinker who has honed her/his sparkling creativity, organisational flair and people skills in our specialist area – consultancy for people-centred brands and services. Entrepreneurial and business-orientated, s/he relishes getting under the skin of organisations, relates confidently to clients at the highest level and is keen to challenge and innovate. S/he’s an impressive communicator and an empathetic, thoughtful listener. A strong team player with excellent project management skills, s/he’ll remain formidably organised and disciplined even under pressure.

[Circus traits]

There are three facets to a Circus role:
1. It is the quality of our strategic response which more than anything creates value for our clients, drawing on the insights produced by meticulous research and investigation. So a Circus person needs to be analytical and creative – as well as inquisitive, well-informed and genuinely fascinated by each new client challenge.
2. Because a Circus role is client-facing, s/he also needs to be articulate and astute, with super-sized empathy and intuition.
3. And because s/he will be running projects, a Circus person needs a good practical head for business, efficiently managing time, clients and budgets and spotting new commercial opportunities.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Presentation Skills Training: Business Week Carmine Gallo's 2008 article about delivering a Presentation like Steve Jobs

It's old, but good presenting wisdom is timeless. Here's an article from last year (Jan 2008) where Business week's communications coach, Carmine Gallo, breaks down the ace presenter's Macworld keynote. He gives us a 10-part framework on how to be a presentation rockstar.

Gallo writes, "When Apple (AAPL) CEO Steve Jobs kicked off this year's Macworld Conference & Expo, he once again raised the bar on presentation skills. While most presenters simply convey information, Jobs also inspires. He sells the steak and the sizzle at the same time, as one reader commented a few years ago.

I analyzed his latest presentation and extracted the 10 elements that you can combine to dazzle your own audience. Bear in mind that Jobs has been refining his skills for years. I broke down his 2007 Macworld keynote in a previous column (, 7/6/07) and in a chapter in my latest book. Still, how he actually arrives at what appear to be effortless presentations bears expanding on and explaining again.

1. Set the theme. "There is something in the air today." With those words, Jobs opened Macworld. By doing so, he set the theme for his presentation (, 1/15/08) and hinted at the key product announcement—the ultrathin MacBook Air laptop. Every presentation needs a theme, but you don't have to deliver it at the start. Last year, Jobs delivered the theme about 20 minutes into his presentation: "Today Apple reinvents the phone." Once you identify your theme, make sure you deliver it several times throughout your presentation.

2. Demonstrate enthusiasm. Jobs shows his passion for computer design. During his presentation he used words like "extraordinary," "amazing," and "cool." When demonstrating a new location feature for the iPhone, Jobs said, "It works pretty doggone well." Most speakers have room to add some flair to their presentations. Remember, your audience wants to be wowed, not put to sleep. Next time you're crafting or delivering a presentation, think about injecting your own personality into it. If you think a particular feature of your product is "awesome," say it. Most speakers get into presentation mode and feel as though they have to strip the talk of any fun. If you are not enthusiastic about your own products or services, how do you expect your audience to be?

3. Provide an outline. Jobs outlined the presentation by saying, "There are four things I want to talk about today. So let's get started…" Jobs followed his outline by verbally opening and closing each of the four sections and making clear transitions in between. For example, after revealing several new iPhone features, he said, "The iPhone is not standing still. We keep making it better and better and better. That was the second thing I wanted to talk about today. No. 3 is about iTunes." Make lists and provide your audience with guideposts along the way.

4. Make numbers meaningful. When Jobs announced that Apple had sold 4 million iPhones to date, he didn't simply leave the number out of context. Instead, he put it in perspective by adding, "That's 20,000 iPhones every day, on average." Jobs went on to say, "What does that mean to the overall market?" Jobs detailed the breakdown of the U.S smartphone market and Apple's share of it to demonstrate just how impressive the number actually is. Jobs also pointed out that Apple's market share equals the share of its top three competitors combined. Numbers don't mean much unless they are placed in context. Connect the dots for your listeners.

5. Try for an unforgettable moment. This is the moment in your presentation that everyone will be talking about. Every Steve Jobs presentation builds up to one big scene. In this year's Macworld keynote, it was the announcement of MacBook Air"

Monday, June 1, 2009

Now Showing in the Society's Grand Hall: Creative Brief Formats From All Over The World

Ad literate has let there prized collection of brief formats travel to the Great Hall of the Royal Society to become a truly wonderful exhibition. We are overjoyed. Great work literate! At the opening reception there will be free homegrown beers for all and we have heard rumors about an exquisite batch of mead straight from our abbey. Cross your fingers! {R.S.O.A.P!}

Here are the links to each brief format and the delightful comments from the Adliterate:

Quoted from: What's in a format? Posted in adliterate on October 15, 2008

Saatchi & Saatchi - London
Download file
This is the new naked brief format we are working to. Essentially is a blank sheet of paper with a nice logo at the top and the idea is that you write you brief from the heart rather than filling in a form.

Fallon - London
Download file
This is Fallon's brief - look at how lovely and naked it is.
And here is their Red brief - for re-briefs and pitch briefs. Download file

BBH - London
Download file
A powerpoint version of the BBH brief.

M&C Saatchi - London
Download file.
This is the briefing format I have been banging on about, Interestingly this is now a little dated and they no longer use a briefing format. Up the revolution.

M&C Hong Kong/APAC
Download file
This is the brief from last year as M&C have dispensed with a format here as they have in London.

Modernista - Boston
Download file

M! creative brief format.

Testardo Redcell - Poland
Download file

A classic format from my old network.

Download file
Naked's naked brief

Euro RSCG Australia
Download file

Singleton Ogilvy & Mather - Australia
Download file

Oomph - Cirencester, UK
Download file

Sudler & Hennesy - Sydney
Download file

Impact BBDO - Dubai
Download file

Tullo Marshall Warren
Download file

McCann Erickson - Indonesia
Download file. And here is an personal approach from one of their planners Download file.


Naked Briefs - Thoughts on Creative Brief Formats from AdLiterate.
It is one of the least edifying characteristics of planning directors that they spend alot of time creating a new briefing format for the agency or network. It is what my old boss Jim Kelly would call "displacement activity". I don't know about you but I have never liked briefing formats and forms. The theory goes that if you fill out all the boxes on the funky new template that someone has spent the last six months of the agency's time putting together then you will miraculously end up with a brilliant brief. If only it was that easy.

I have always believed that filling out boxes on a brief reduces the process to something more akin to applying for a credit card and thus regarded the whole briefing form approach with utter derision. But some agencies seem to like it. Fortunately neither of the places I have spent most of my career (AMV - the UK's largest agency - and HHCL - for a long time the UK's most interesting), had a briefing form. Both places felt that planners should write the right brief for the task in hand. Lets face it we are all grown ups here and we can all write a brief without the help of some ridiculous form. I tend to write mine using a decidedly simple, decidedly old fashioned structure which I am minded to call the naked brief. It is naked because the structure is so spare that it directs one's attention to the quality of the thinking and away from the quality of the form.

And this is how it goes:

1. The role for communications. Look mum, no background. Background is usually an excuse to dump a load of stuff that is not important enough to get in the body of the brief but somehow seems like it might be relevant. My advice is to bin the background and get straight into the effect the activity is intended to create. The role should get to the absolute heart of the problem. And when you have nailed it it is still worth asking yourself 'why' a couple more times simply to get to right to the root of the task.

2. Target audience. This is the stuff about the audience that is absolutely relevant to the task. And don't write it in a "Timothy and Samantha are both aged 24 and like to go out a lot, watch DVDs at home and have a very experimental attitude towards sex" unless you have actually met these people and you aren't just making up some ghastly advertising targeting confection. This sort of trite story is the 21st century equivalent of telling the creative team that the audience are ABC1, Men and Women aged 25-44 - the square root of fuck all use.

3. Proposition. Call it what you will but this is what you are trying to communicate about the brand. Propositions work with the role for communications. The role for communications sets the challenge the work must meet and the proposition is the idea that we want to land about the brand.

4. Support. The stuff that convinces you that the thinking can be supported, will convince the creatives and ultimately will convince the consumer. This is not the repository of all knowable information on earth but the stuff that makes the thinking compelling.

5. Tone. Only if it makes the difference and you can elevate yourself above the cesspit of statements like "businesslike but not formal". On Tango briefs I used to write that if the work wasn't so funny that it made you piss blood then the work wasn't right.

6. Requirements. What do we know we have to do. If it is prescriptive then tell the team what the media agency has already bought. If this is a campaign that can achieve its aims by any means necessary then keep it open.

7. Mandatories. This is not the place on the brief to get creative. It is the place to communicate the stuff that is non-negotiable.

8. Creative starters. Use this to road test your thinking and to open up the ambition of the brief. Ensure that a couple are media starters, and if the requirements are open guide the team about the nature of potential solutions - digital applications, events, promotional ideas - whatever it takes.

It's as boring as hell but that is the point. Minimum time spent designing a funky new creative brief and maximum time spent on the thought or thinking that goes into them.

- Adliterate, February 29, 2008