Messy briefs ‘putting the skids on a third of ad budgets’

marketersMarketers’ shoddy briefing practices not only leave agencies in the dark about what their clients want, they also lead to a third of marketing budgets going to waste due to loss of time and money, fuelling frustration on both sides.

That is just one of the damning conclusions from what is claimed to be the first-ever global study into the shortcomings of marketing briefs, due to be presented at this week’s IPA marketing effectiveness event, EffWorks Global 2021.

In collaboration with research partner Flood + Partners, the BetterBriefs Project initiated by leading Australian strategists Matt Davies and Pieter-Paul von Weiler, reveals the uncomfortable truths about the confusion, misalignment and miscommunication between marketers and agencies.

It is claimed the survey is the largest ever done on this topic, representing the opinions of over 1,700 marketers and agency staff from over 70 countries.

It reveals that eight out of ten marketers (80%) think they write good briefs, but only one in ten (10%) creative agencies agree. Over three quarters of marketers (78%) think the briefs they write provide clear strategic direction, with only 5% of creative agencies agreeing. And when it comes to language, most marketers (83%) believe that the briefs they write contain clear and concise language, with only 7% of agencies agreeing.

Interestingly, most marketers (89%) and agencies (86%) agree that it is challenging to produce good creative work without a good marketing brief yet, despite their importance and value, almost all marketers (90%) and agencies (92%) agree that the brief is one of the most valuable and, paradoxically, most neglected tools marketers have to create good work.

Respondents estimated that a third (33%) of the marketing budget goes to waste due to poor briefs and misdirected work. And rebriefs happen too often with marketers (69%) and agencies (73%) agreeing, leading to loss of time, money and creating frustration.

IPA director of marketing strategy and executive director IPA EffWorks Janet Hull said: “How can you say what you mean if you don’t mean what you say? Which is precisely the issue that this thorough research brings to the fore: you can’t produce good work without a good evidence-based brief with realistic outcomes and sensible budgets. They are the building block of the client/agency relationship and the campaign outcome.

“A bad brief results in wasted time, money and patience all round. But let’s turn a negative into a positive here. Now we know the extent of the problem, we are also presented with an opportunity to improve the briefing process and reclaim the third of the marketing budget lost to bad briefs – which is why we will be adding this to the list of our EffWorks R&D priorities for 2022.”

BetterBriefs Project co-founders Matt Davies and Pieter-Paul von Weiler added: “The aim of the BetterBriefs project is to jumpstart more informed conversations about briefs. They should direct and inspire, not confuse and frustrate. Our results demonstrate the sad reality of the current state of the industry. Marketers and agencies should communicate better with each other.”

Flood + Partners research partner Vaughan Flood concluded: “This is a truly revelatory study. It highlights the scale of the marketing brief problems and the perceptual gap between marketers and their agencies. Fortunately, it also shines a light on ways to move things forward in a positive direction.”

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