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The creative brief: essential components, how to write it, and a template to use

18 min read
Aaron Marquis

Creative projects need to be delivered faster and with higher quality than ever. Crafting a well-defined creative brief at the start of each new project is essential to setting your team up for success. A great creative brief is a blueprint that guides your project, aligning the team's vision and ensuring everyone is on the same page.
This comprehensive guide will explore how to write the perfect creative brief. We'll provide valuable insights, practical tips, and adaptable creative brief templates to help you streamline your creative workflow and help all your team members. 

Get ready to unlock the secrets of well-defined and reusable creative briefs and watch your creative projects succeed with clarity, creativity, and efficiency.


What we'll cover

What is a creative brief?

A creative brief is a living document that provides direction for creative teams and sets out project goals.

Creative briefs typically include:

  • Brand or project statement
  • Key objectives/challenges
  • Target audience
  • Main competitors
  • Company values/market positioning
  • Campaign channels (such as  social media, banner ads, and print materials)
  • Timelines
  • Deliverables
  • Stakeholders
  • Links to inspiration and resources
  • Brand guidelines
  • Client vision
  • Company/product positioning
  • Audience personas
  • Scope

The importance of an effective creative brief

Creative Brief Template with attributes - Project name, project owner, project background etc

Even in a seemingly straightforward project, it can be easy for team members to make assumptions, misinterpret each other, or just get distracted. These mistakes can lead to more time spent on revisions and delayed timelines. 

Creative briefs are the guardrails that keep a project with multiple stakeholders on track. They make sure the whole team is aligned on what they’re delivering. And when set up well, they can have some significant benefits, including:

Documenting the project plan

A creative brief is similar to a recipe — even if you think you remember all the steps, you’ll probably need to refer back to it at some point.

Documenting the plan ensures that all the necessary details are in one place, making them easy to reference for all parties. Not only does this make it easier to communicate that plan to key stakeholders, but it ensures everyone is on the same page — internally and externally.

Saving time and maintaining your creative flow

By documenting all the necessary information up front in the creative brief helps creative teams work more efficiently. For example, if a creative brief includes the brand guide, a graphic designer won’t have to ask to pause midway through a project to reach out to the client for details on using the brand’s fonts, colors, and logos and wait for a reply.

These kinds of delays can really hinder efficiency, but even more detrimentally, they can cause creative energy to fizzle out.

Creative brief templates help teams ensure all the necessary information is present without reinventing the wheel with each project. This speeds up the early stage of the project — they can ask for what information they need without thinking too much about it or stressing about forgetting something.

Improving accountability

One of the first rules of working with multiple stakeholders is to get everything in writing. Documenting all the key information about the project in one place makes it easy for all the stakeholders to reference the agreed-upon guidelines. Creative briefs are a key reminder that can be referenced or revised throughout the project as it evolves.

Anticipating the unexpected

Sometimes — especially with projects that have a long timeline — client priorities change, or new stakeholders step into an important project role. The creative brief can explain how shifting objectives, additional requests, or new instructions impact delivery dates. This level of transparency helps prevent miscommunication and keeps projects within scope.

Accelerating approvals

The creative brief can be a place to set expectations for what the feedback and revision process looks like. Outlining which stakeholders should be included at what points in the creative process can eliminate confusion or chasing down stakeholders at the last minute.

Improving creative quality

Establishing the creative direction and purpose at the beginning of a project with a creative brief can make a huge difference in quality. That guidance means the deliverable will be more strategically aligned with the client's overall goals, and that the creative development will be inspired by the client’s vision.

Design team using creative brief while leading the project

Types of creative briefs

  • Traditional creative briefs will outline basic information about the project, including objectives, target audience, key messaging, tone of voice, and any other specific requirements or constraints.
  • Digital creative briefs focus specifically on digital projects such as websites, social media campaigns, email marketing, or online advertising. It can include additional details such as user experience, SEO considerations, and technical requirements.
  • Design creative briefs may include additional reference materials, mood boards, and technical specifications in the case of product or packaging design.
  • Brand briefs focus on refreshing brand identity, including elements such as logo design, brand colors, typography, and brand personality.
  • Integrated marketing campaign briefs may require different types of creative assets spanning different channels and media, each of which may have a dedicated project brief with lists of deliverables, due dates, and stakeholder information. An integrated brief is important to make sure that there is consistency and alignment across all touchpoints, including how the creative will be adapted for each channel.
  • Product launch briefs are used when launching a new product or service. They are specialized briefs that can include unique selling points, competitive landscape, target market, and key product messaging strategy.
  • Event creative briefs are used for events such as conferences, tradeshows, or experiential marketing. These briefs will outline the event theme, audience, key messages, branding elements, and logistical considerations.
  • Video or film briefs are used for video content and are specifically for video production teams. They outline the storyline, visual style, tone, and any technical specifications, including final delivery formats.
  • Client creative briefs often take the form of any of the above briefs but often with more specific details on external timelines, deliverables, and costs associated with additional work. They may follow a template provided by the client or include tailored suggestions for the client outlined during project planning.

When should you use a creative brief?

Creative briefs aren’t always necessary. Sometimes, the time and effort spent creating a brief would take longer than the actual work itself. Creative briefs are most useful for:

  • New project kickoffs for highly conceptual or complex creative work
  • Iterations of existing work/past projects
  • Work that requires several stakeholders or effort across the creative team
  • Creative projects with long timelines
  • Any project that requires several rounds of approval or compliance review

Who should ‘own’ the creative brief?

Creative operations manager briefing the project by her laptop

Since creative briefs are used for a wide variety of project types, who “owns” the brief can also vary depending on whether the project is internal or external, the size and structure of the team, and the workflow. However, ownership often falls under these types of roles:

  • Account Manager/Account Executive: This role usually involves managing relationships with outside clients. In agencies and other creative teams with external clients, account managers will own the brief, acting as the go-between and documenting key information.
  • Creative Director: This leadership role often takes charge of crafting the brief to make sure the project lines up with creative standards. This is especially common in smaller teams where creative directors have more fluid roles.
  • Strategist or Brand Planner: Some teams may have dedicated strategists whose role is to get to know the brand, audience, and market deeply. They work with both internal and external teams to determine a project’s strategic direction. 
  • Project Manager or Creative Operations: Larger teams may have someone in charge of work processes. They help ensure that workflows are efficient and consistent and manage all the moving pieces of a project. Project managers often stay on top of the brief to make sure it includes all the information team members need to keep the project on pace.
  • Creative Services Manager: This role can overlap somewhat with the project manager role, but the CSM focuses on the creative team. An expert in creative workflows, the CSM may own the creative brief and work closely with the team to keep the project aligned with the creative guidelines.

Whoever takes on this role in your team needs to be knowledgeable about the client and the creative process. They should also have organizational and leadership skills to help usher the project along.

Essential components of a creative brief

Project background

The background digs into why the client needs a solution and how they decided to come to your team to create it. Usually, the background will detail what gaps the project aims to fill, including outlining why the current solution (if one exists) isn’t working. The project background should also clearly outline any problems the team hopes to solve.

Target audience

The target audience information tells creatives who they’re trying to reach. For example, this could touch on demographics — age, occupation, and hobbies. The best briefs will accurately and comprehensively describe the ideal customer profile (ICP)  and buyer personas. Defining your audiences makes it much easier to identify their pain points — which you’re aiming to solve.
For example, the ICP for a productivity tool could be a busy middle manager who is looking for ways to streamline their workflow. 


This section describes what language you should use to deliver key information. It also details what you want the customer to get out of the ad.

For example, a takeout restaurant might choose a family-friendly tone of voice with a key message of “Get your food fast.” Putting this in the creative brief directs the creative on what to focus on when writing the script.

Main business objective(s)/goals

Every creative brief should describe project goals in detail. Helping the creatives understand the purpose of the project is key to keeping the creative direction on track. Some of the questions to ask when filling out this section include:

  • Which OKRs does this support?
  • Which KPI is it trying to move?
  • What is the story we’re trying to tell?

For example, the same restaurant mentioned above may be trying to improve overall brand reach in a particular area as their OKR. An important KPI could be restaurant visits — maybe they have a goal of increasing visits by 8%. The story ties these goals back into the bigger brand: Why this particular restaurant versus another?


The research phase of a project usually involves diving into the work of company competitors. But sometimes, your closest competitors aren’t obvious. This section of the creative brief directs the team to your biggest competition so they can get inspired and see who they need to stand out against.


Project timelines are one of the most important logistical details to share in your creative brief. For more complex projects, this can be more than a deadline. Timelines may include a series of checkpoints for involving stakeholders and delivering feedback.

Budget and resources

Creative teams can be imaginative and ambitious. While this is great, the budget section helps prevent the team from accidentally going overboard and spending too much on one deliverable. This is also a good place to put links to existing assets — anything that the creative team can use to prevent redundant work.


This section of a creative brief answers the question: What are the concrete items the client needs for this project to be complete? Detailed specifications, such as preferred file size and file format, are helpful.

Channels of distribution

Where the creative project goes after it’s done is an important factor for creative teams. This can influence what the finished deliverable looks like, the tone of the messaging, and more. For example, social media posts created for LinkedIn are going to be completely different from posts created for Instagram. The creative brief should answer:

  • What is this, and where is it going?
  • How is it being distributed?
  • Which existing assets will it link to?

Creative considerations

Brand guidelines are a must for every creative brief. Yes, every single one. This can include color palette, font choices, logo requirements, language, general creative direction, and anything else relevant to your or your client’s brand. This section should answer: 

  • What is the unique takeaway or point of view?
  • How does this add value for the audience?

Key benefits

Benefits are what a customer gets out of a product. If the creative brief centers on a product, then you need to include its benefits.

Benefits could be as simple as “never be late again!” or “discover your true self.” They’re less about the product and more about the customer’s needs and what they get out of it.

Reference material

A picture is worth a thousand words, and sometimes, referencing an existing asset is easier than explaining it with text.

References can include material that other companies created that performed well, examples of how the logo should be used, links to assets, and other important resources that the creatives will dig into.


Any other need-to-know information should be included in the creative brief. Does the client’s CEO have a thing against Oxford commas? Put it in there. Is there a color that the team should avoid? Make a note. The more complete a creative brief, the fewer revisions there will be later.

How to write a creative brief step-by-step

Not sure where to start? Here’s the order of operations for making a creative brief that will deliver great results.

Marketing manager using both paper and a laptop for creative briefing

1.  Summarize the project and define objectives

Start out with a high-level overview. Try to fit this into a couple of sentences. This isn’t the creative direction; it just provides the overall context for what comes next.

2. Identify your target audience

One of the first questions any good creative will ask is, “Who is this for?” Put this information front and center, and include any ICPs or buyer personas that can help them picture your ideal customer.

3. Outline key messages and brand guidelines

This is the meat of the creative brief. The central messaging and the creative guidelines will be the section that the creative team spends the most time with as they shape their deliverables. It’s great to get as detailed as possible here; try to anticipate any questions the team may have and answer them in this section.

4. List deliverables and formats

Now we’re getting into the details. This list clarifies what, exactly, the team should deliver by the end of the project. It also shares the details about what formats and sizes the deliverable should use to prevent back-and-forth with the client.

5. Set a timeline and budget

These key logistical details are less about the project and more about project management. This key information will help the creative team prioritize their work. It will also prevent their ambitions from getting overboard and spending too many billing hours and resources on one thing.

6. Establish success metrics and approval workflow

This section of the brief sets expectations for what happens after the deliverable is handed over. You can set clear, agreed-upon guidelines for what stakeholder feedback is needed and when. This prevents stakeholders from getting pulled in at the wrong time, which can result in total redos.

Clarifying success metrics also puts all stakeholders on the same page about how to evaluate the project after it’s released into the world.

Creative brief template: Ziflow’s new internal system 

At Ziflow, we recently developed a new creative briefing process for our own marketing projects. As we’ve grown, we realized we needed to formalize our own project planning to be more organized and communicate the progress of work more effectively with other stakeholders.

Our Creative Project Manager developed a creative brief template that all stakeholders use to request new work from our creative team. For our creative briefs, we use elements of the Goals, Audience, Creative, Channels (GACC) marketing brief to ensure we summarize the most impactful work for a project. Now, all of our creative projects — from web designs and videos to blog posts and product designs — begin with a this template that you can download from here:

Creative Brief Template

Here's a creative brief example we use to launch new social media ads. With the core information included, the creative team has an in-depth understanding of the project's purpose, needed deliverables, and any specifications for assets. 

Example Creative Brief Template

Project Name:

 New Social Media ad set

Project Owner:

Demand Generation Manager

Project Stakeholders:

Demand Generation Manager, CMO, SEM Contractors, Social Media Manager

Project Background:

We want to create new social display ads to replace three existing SEM campaigns with new images and text.

Project objective:

Increase paid ad performance and new free trials of Ziflow


Google search and social media users

Distribution channel:

Facebook, Instagram, Google Display Ads


3x static facebook post
1 static instagram post

1x animated instagram post

Html5 and static - full package according to tech spec

Tech spec:

3x static post: ratio 1:1, png/jpg, up to 20% of text visible at the graphic

1x static post, 4:5 ratio, png/jpg

1x animated post, up to 4GB, 5 sec long

Design inspiration:

See existing Ziflow ads

Copy to be included:

Deliver exceptional creative work faster with Ziflow 




October 1, 2022

This briefing process transformed what was an ad-hoc step for project planning to a standardized process for the intake of new creative work. Within two weeks of implementing this template, our creative team’s workflow was much more organized.

Now, our Creative Project Manager can more efficiently prioritize the creative team’s overall workload and bandwidth, properly assign or shift work to each team member, and communicate more efficiently with stakeholders like Ziflow's CMO, CEO, Head of Product, and others. By working off of detailed and approved creative briefs, the team can also avoid any distracting work or in-flight requests that are outside the original scope of the project.

Feel free to use this creative brief to start planning your own project!

How to use creative briefs 

Creative briefs are most effective as a living document that teams continually reference throughout the creative process. Think of creative briefs as Version 0 of a project that kicks off the entire creative workflow.

Store the creative brief as a document alongside iterations of project deliverables/creative work. If you’re using a creative collaboration space to review creative assets, you can embed the brief into each version. If you’re using automation for creative review, you can build approval workflows based on the deadlines and stakeholders included in the creative brief or project brief. 

The owner of the creative brief should consult it often to ensure that creative deliverables follow all guidelines and support the original goal. 

Discover how Ziflow streamlines your creative processes

Creative briefs can be challenging documents to manage. You need to keep track of all the project steps, all the stakeholders, and feedback and ensure that everyone is sticking to the guidelines and scope.

Ziflow makes managing feedback on creative assets easy with our all-in-one proofing platform. Designed with creative teams in mind, it’s intuitive and powerful, with tracking tools that even the strictest project manager will love.

Get started with Ziflow today to see how we can transform how you work. 

Download our free creative brief template

Use our free creative brief templates to elevate your next creative project. Capture all of the key information needed to guide your creative team to deliver exceptional creative work.

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