Creative Brief on Steroids

Creative Brief on Steroids

A Creative Director’s Dream

What if you could present a creative brief that showed you could increase consumers’ intent to purchase by 18% if you communicate XYZ? This type of insight is what a Creative Director at a large agency called a “creative brief on steroids.” The strategy team and creative team have long butted heads. The strategy team believes they know the best path to take based on their research (and it may be a narrow path). The creative team often feels restricted by the strategy team’s narrow path and likes to have their creative freedom. What if there was a way that both parties could do what they do best, while not stepping on each other’s toes? Let’s look at how this is done and how it can increase the effectiveness of your creative briefs.

Establishing a “sandbox”

The ultimate goal is to establish a “sandbox” that the creative team can play in; while remaining confident that anything communicated within the sandbox will produce the desired results (e.g. change in behavior, sales, etc.) How is such a “sandbox” established?


Perhaps you’ve experienced this scenario…. The strategy team has a good idea of the different types of messaging attributes (e.g. reason to believe, warranty, emotional statement, brand name, etc.) that are driving consumer behavior. However, they don’t know the best way to communicate each attribute and which attributes work best together.

Figuring out the best way to communicate each attribute (e.g. for the attribute Color: red, green, blue) is done by testing messaging attributes in a stimulus-response setting. In a stimulus-response exercise, respondents are presented a series of concepts and are asked to make a choice (simulating what people do in a real-life purchasing environment). To do this, we use a proprietary tool called IdeaMap®. By using an experimental design, IdeaMap® strategically alternates the combination of messaging attributes shown to the respondent. In the background, IdeaMap® is statistically deriving the relative value of each messaging attribute (e.g. color) and level (e.g. red, green, blue).

If messaging attributes and levels are new concepts to you, picture it like this:

An ‘attribute’ is any messaging category that is part of the perceived value of your message. For example, common messaging attributes are:

  • Reason to believe
  • Warranty
  • Brand name

Think of ‘levels’ as a sub-set under each category. For example, the bullet points beneath each messaging attribute represents a level.

Reason to believe

  • Backed with a 100% purchase / fraud protection guarantee.
  • It has earned rave reviews from real users.
  • It’s free, from (brand name) – your trusted partner
  • Over 100,000 people have already joined


  • 3-month warranty
  • 6-month warranty
  • 12-month warranty
  • 24-month warranty

Brand name

  • Nike
  • Adidas
  • New Balance
  • Reebok

Identifying which attributes work best together is done by measuring the Interaction Effects of the stimulus-response data (aka Interaction Effects Analysis). Simply put, an Interaction Effects Analysis simulates all the possible combinations of messaging attributes and estimates the relative impact it has on your desired outcome (e.g. change in behavior, sales, etc.) when attributes are paired together. For example, you might find that a “reason to believe” statement has a positive effect when attached to a specific promotional feature. It’s a matter of identifying which messaging attributes create a “1+1=3” effect when combined.


After going through this process you’re left with statistically viable insights into your creative strategy. In other words, you’ve created the ‘sandbox’ your creative team can play in while still being confident you’re communicating the right things. You now understand which messaging attributes need to be communicated and which combination of messaging attributes create the most impactful message.

In less “geek-speak”, you can confidently pitch your creative brief by backing up your creative recommendations with hard data. Jump back to our original scenario…..

Imagine presenting a creative brief that showed you could increase consumers’ intent to purchase by 18% if you communicate XYZ?

To use a baseball analogy, it’s like going to bat as Barry Bonds (the year he broke the home run record). Everyone in the park knew that when his bat hit the ball it was a home run. Set your creative briefs up for success and knock them out of the park.

Want more information on how Agencies can leverage research? Check out the Ad Agency Hub!

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