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IPA: ‘Massive lack of alignment’ between marketers and agencies on briefs


By Sam Bradley, Senior Reporter

November 15, 2023 | 5 min read

New report compiled with BetterBriefs provides advice for agencies and marketers.

A document with multiple sticky notes attached, on a desk next to coloured highlighter pens

BetterBrief’s research previously found a gulf on brefing quality between marketers and agencies / Unsplash

Disagreements between marketers and agency partners around briefs are a long-standing thorn in the side of otherwise fruitful partnerships.

To help marketers approach briefs in a more direct and helpful manner – and encourage agencies to put their hands up when briefs go south – the Institute for Practitioners in Advertising (IPA) and consultancy BetterBriefs has released a new report.

Identifying key flashpoints between marketers and agencies, the report draws together advice from key agency leaders, including the Marketing Academy Foundation’s chief executive officer Daryl Fielding, Previously Unavailable’s founding partner James Hurman and the Lego Agency’s Emma Perkins.

Subjects tackled in the report include defining the correct strategy, setting marketing objectives, making sure marketers have clear audience targets, running the creative process effectively and using clear criteria for evaluating work.

Each was identified as a particular point of pain for agencies and marketers during a previous BetterBriefs research project. According to its surveys, 78% of marketers believe their briefs provide clear strategic direction, while only 5% of agencies agree; 65% of agencies don’t have a clear idea of their target market, while 88% aren’t clear on how their work is evaluated by clients.

Hurman advises: “Sharing the same ‘evaluation criteria’ – or as I put it, ‘what defines great work’ – makes everything a million times easier. Before you start work on your next campaign, get together, get inspired by the best work in the world, and make your list.”

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Contributor Daryl Fielding, who helped create Dove’s ‘Campaign for Real Beauty,’ says that marketers and agencies need to make more time at the beginning of their working relationship to make sure they’re on the same page.

“People say, ‘Oh, there’s no time for any proper conversations on the briefs these days – we just get them by email.’ Well, you do have the time to do the work twice, it seems,” she writes. “Shift that time to the beginning of the process. Ironically, finding time for the right things at the right stages saves time. Hold hands, agency and client, and liberate your people to do things properly.”

Commenting on the new report, Joyce Kelso, associate director of marketing at the IPA, said: “This compendium provides sound practical advice, through perceptive cartoons and expert advice to help combat the common pitfalls around briefing.

“Getting the brief right, right at the very beginning, is not only an efficient use of a client’s time but also makes best use of the agency’s talent and energies that ultimately crack it.”

You can download the BetterBrief and the IPA’s report here.

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