Briefs are primarily written by Planners - aided and abetted by the Client and Account Handlers.
By definition, they only hand over the brief when they're happy with it.
And yet the receivers of the brief - the Creatives - rarely seem happy with it. In fact they're notoriously silent and tense in the briefing. Could that be because the briefing document, in the eyes of the Creatives, is actually upside down?
This was the conclusion my friend Dustin reached, when he went to a talk about innovation funding. (Incidentally you should be reading Dustin's blog, it's really very good.)
One of the speakers put up a slide, illustrating the different approach of how academics usually digest information, compared to how investors absorb it.
And Dustin's observation was that there's a strong parallel between how Creatives absorb information, and the other departments.
When Creatives hear about a brief, the first thing we want to know is the proposition. And when we hear about an ad, the first thing we want to know is the idea.
Yet most (but not all) Planners, Account Handlers, and Clients are the other way around. They first want to hear the background to a brief - the pieces of evidence that lead up to a proposition. And when it comes to ideas, they want to be 'taken on the journey' - start with the thinking that went into it, and end with the idea.
A clue to this conundrum may lie in an aspect of Myers-Briggs.
For anyone who doesn't know, Myers-Briggs is a method of defining personality, by assigning each individual a four-letter 'character type', e.g. ISFP, or ENTJ. Each letter reflects where the person sits along one of four different axes, for example either 'E' for Extrovert or 'I' for Introverted.
The distinction that's relevant here is between 'S' - Sensing, and 'N' - Intuitive. (I think they picked 'N' for intuitive because 'I' was already taken for Introverted).
'Sensing' people gather evidence before reaching a conclusion. Whereas Intuitive people come up with an answer first, and then look for evidence to back it up.
When I did the Myers-Briggs, as part of some Creative Director training course a few years ago, the results were quite interesting. Some of the CD's were Extrovert, some Introvert. Some were 'T' (Thinking) and some were 'F' (Feeling). But every single one of us was 'N' (Intuitive).
The tester wasn't surprised at all. She mentioned that she had now run the Myers-Briggs on 500 Creatives, and 499 of them were Intuitive rather than Sensing.
The conclusion for Creatives is that we are probably best served by presenting our ideas in what feels (to us) like the wrong way round.
And here's a thought for people writing briefs: Your brief is a document intended for an end user. To the end user, it looks like it's upside down.
Any chance of flipping it over?