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Artificial Intelligence Technology Open Mic

What we can learn from using ChatGPT about writing better briefs

By Kim Walker, Founder and Chairman



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August 15, 2023 | 10 min read

There are clear parallels between instructing ChatGPT and crafting effective briefs, says Kim Walker (founder and chairman, Aprais). Just as ChatGPT requires precise instructions, a well-structured brief is key to improving client-agency relationships. Here’s why.

A six finger hand

ChatGPT, why don't we have six fingers?

I have found some striking parallels between writing instructions for ChatGPT and writing a good brief, including the question, ‘Why don’t we have six fingers?’

I’m not talking about using artificial intelligence (AI) to write the brief, though I’ve no doubt it could help. I’m suggesting that instructing a robot can provide us lessons in how to communicate better with humans.

I’ve had quite the journey with ChatGPT—using it for both brilliant and downright silly tasks. From crafting speech ideas for my daughter’s upcoming wedding, to penning song lyrics, to indulging in some whimsical challenges like pondering the existence of six fingers.

Back in the day, we used to throw around the term "GIGA," which stood for garbage in, garbage out. Feed the system junk, you get junk back. And it's a lesson that holds true for ChatGPT too. In fact, even more so, because AI doesn't have that built-in human common sense filter. It takes things quite literally.

Why is this a big deal? At Aprais, we've analyzed over 26,000 client-agency relationships, and guess what? A poorly written client brief is like nails on a chalkboard for agencies. It's a major thorn in the side of the whole client-agency dynamic.

Source: Aprais 26,000 evaluations

But here's the kicker: As shown in the chart, when we compare the top 10% of agency-rated clients with the bottom 10%, there's a whopping 24.1% room for improvement in briefing for the poor performers. That means those at the bottom could really level up their brief-writing game and subsequently, their relationships too.

Speed versus strategy

Th briefing conundrum isn't new; it's been around since Adam wore short pants. You'd think we'd have figured it out by now, given the strides in technology. But tech has also made us all masters of speed. Under the pressure of time, clients are known to have sent directives affecting million-dollar investments, via a simple text message.

The medium or the message?

It's not the medium that's the culprit; it's the thought behind it. Yet, the convenience of dashing off quick thoughts often trumps the time it takes to sit, ponder, plan, and then compose a thorough brief. I get it, we're all swamped.

Naturally, I tossed this puzzle at ChatGPT, wondering about the overlaps between crafting an advertising campaign brief and instructing the AI. Its response? Impressive, to say the least, and a bit more forgiving than I'd be.

Here's what ChatGPT flagged as the similarities:

  • Clear communication objectives: In both cases, it's essential to define clear communication objectives. When writing a creative brief, you outline the goals and desired outcomes of the advertising campaign.
  • Audience understanding: Understanding the target audience is crucial for both writing a creative brief and instructing ChatGPT effectively. In advertising, you define the target audience's demographics, preferences, and behaviors to create tailored messages.
  • Tone and style guidelines: When writing a creative brief, you often include guidelines for the desired tone and style of the advertising materials.
  • Background information: Providing context and background information is important in both cases. In a creative brief, you include relevant information about the product or service, market positioning, competitive landscape, and any other factors that may influence the campaign.
  • Clarity and brevity: Both a creative brief and instructing ChatGPT require clear and concise communication. In a creative brief, you strive to convey information succinctly to avoid misinterpretation.
  • Iterative feedback: Both processes benefit from iterative feedback. In advertising, the creative team often provides feedback on initial concepts and drafts to refine the campaign.

The model even issued its own caveat stating that while these similarities exist, ChatGPT requires a more specific and structured approach, whereas a creative brief tends to be more open-ended and allows for creative interpretation by human professionals.

The last point is crucial and often forgotten when we resort to shorthand messages as briefs. We are dealing with humans here.

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Now, let's not forget the heart of the matter: human touch. I'm convinced that a great brief is 50% what's in it and 50% how you present it. It's easy to fire up a team when you're dealing with something exciting like cars or candy. But how about pushing batteries or cleaning agents? Not exactly a thrill ride, huh?

Make it exciting

I believe good briefs are 50% in the content and 50% in the telling. Categories that enjoy high consumer engagement are in some ways easier because they have some in-built excitement. Think about drinks, cars and confectionery. But how about batteries or household cleaning products? Not so easy.

Marketers need to know that agency folks are probably working on multiple clients and categories. The challenge is to excite the team about their marketing challenge. Make it a creative opportunity for the agency.

I once worked on a tampon brand at a time when tampons were still taboo in certain cultures. When my female colleagues and I arrived in the meeting room, a pack of the product, and a glass of water was neatly arranged on the desk in front of each attendee. As the client talked us through the product benefits and consumer issues, we were asked to remove the tampon from the pack (something a man rarely gets to do) and dunk it in the glass to observe the absorbency (something few people ever get to do). Wow! And here I am decades later, writing about that briefing experience. That’s the power of storytelling and deep involvement that AI cannot match.

While there are notable differences between writing a creative brief and instructing ChatGPT, there are some similarities in terms of the purpose, structure, and clarity of communication.

But humans have the power to impart that information in inspiring and exciting ways, to motivate the very best from the team.

Why don’t we have six fingers?

If I simply ask the question ‘Why don’t we have six fingers’ ChatGPT takes the question seriously and responds from a medical perspective, referring to our genetic makeup and the complex developmental processes that occur during foetal development.

When I tighten the brief to include a ‘humor’ instruction, I get a funny, but long article on the subject. It’s only when I provide total clarity about my requirements i.e. Write five funny one-liners to the question "Why don’t we have six fingers?" that I get what I was aiming for.

Sound familiar?

Here are the five funny one-liners ‘Why don’t we have six fingers’, courtesy of ChatGPT

  1. Because five fingers and a thumb are just the right amount of digits for a harmonious jazz hands performance!"
  2. Evolution realized that with six fingers, the 'thumbs up' gesture would look more like a confused octopus trying to hitchhike.
  3. Having six fingers would make counting to ten a real challenge – we'd need an extra hand just to keep track!
  4. The cosmic finger committee couldn't agree on whether to call it a 'high-six' or a 'double thumbs-up,' so they settled for five and called it a day.
  5. Turns out, our DNA decided that six fingers would only lead to excessive button-pushing on elevators and the world just wasn't ready for that kind of chaos.

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