Insight November 11, 2016

The Anatomy of a Great Creative Strategy Statement


By Brandon Davis, Senior Copywriter

If you’ve ever worked for (or with) an agency, you’ve likely heard of a creative strategy statement (or creative brief, or creative platform). So what, exactly, does that mean? And why waste time writing one when you can just get started on a project?

Simply put, the creative strategy statement (CSS) is the heart of your project, laid out on paper. Filling it out can seem tedious or unnecessary, but it’s vital to the process. For the agency team working on the project, it gives them the parameters they need to do great work. For the client, it helps reinforce what you’re trying to accomplish and provides a measuring stick for the finished product.

Every agency handles the CSS a little differently, but it’s an industry standard for a reason. If you can’t clearly articulate what your project is trying to accomplish, it’s infinitely harder to accomplish anything. There are a few key elements that, despite the layout of the CSS, will always help make sure the finished product is on-target (and as the name implies, they’re all grounded in strategy):

  • Who are you talking to?

Identify what your target audience looks like. Who are they? What do they want? Do they already know about your business?

  • What need are you answering?

You need to give the audience a reason to care about what you’re offering — if you can’t figure out why they’d want to choose your business, your marketing isn’t going to be effective.

  • What’s the takeaway?

Once you know why your audience should care, think about how you’d like them to feel once they’ve seen the ad.

  • What’s the tactic for the project?

Print, social media, outdoor, TV — communicate where and how your audience will be interacting with the finished piece.

  • What’s the next step?

Are you trying to promote awareness? Then what’s the takeaway your audience should have?

Or are you trying to promote action? If so, what should they do after they’ve seen your message?

  • Are there any must-haves (or must-not-haves)?
  • If there are any legal, brand, or production restrictions, it’s best to identify those up front.

If you can answer all of these questions, you’re off to a good start. Finding a great way to connect with your audience is often like putting together a puzzle. It’s intricate, and you might have a different tactic than someone else — but to get the finished product, you need all the pieces.

That’s the value of a CSS, and without it, your messaging is going to feel frustratingly incomplete.