WFA survey reveals battle of the briefs

The biggest brands and the biggest agencies see integrated campaigns coming together in very different ways.

Briefs are a crucial but difficult part of the partnership between brands and agencies. A new global survey conducted by the World Federation of Advertisers and management consultancy The Observatory International suggests these two sides of the industry have different experiences when it comes to how integrated campaign briefs work.

On one side of the survey are 32 client organizations with multinational reach and spending of more than $14 billion USD – the types of clients who commission global creative and standardize their reviews across borders.

Only 12% of these respondents said they issue separate briefs for each agency on an integrated campaign. That’s down from 24% in 2014. Far more – 44% – said they issue a single brief to all agency partners, up from 36% three years ago.

An increasing number of clients, however, are issuing master briefs with specific responsibilities listed for each partner contained therein. Again, 44% say they take this approach, versus 40% in 2014.

However, on the other side of the survey are 46 senior agency executives “with global and regional roles.” They report seeing an increasing number of clients delivering briefs that already have channel outputs in mind – which circumvents part of agencies’ consultation services and is generally seen as a bad business practice among respondents. While only 9% of surveyed clients say they do this, 59% of agency respondents say it happens “sometimes” and 39% say it happens “often.”

Moreover, 71% of the clients say they brief their agencies simultaneously when working on an integrated campaign, but only 24% of agencies say this happens “often or always.” The majority – 67% – say it happens “sometimes.”

There are, however, some trends that the WFA says shows clients are improving their briefing processes. For example, face-to-face briefing is on the rise, up to 93% from 85% in 2014. Metrics have also become an essential part of the process, with 100% of respondents indicating business KPIs are a part of every brief. “Ninety-six percent include marketing metrics, 64% include behavioural changing KPIs,” said the WFA, in a statement.

“It would seem global brands are making progress in improving their integrated briefing process,” Robert Dreblow, the WFA’s global head of marketing services, said in the statement. “Ultimately integration doesn’t come down to agencies or brands, it comes down to people. Strong client leadership coupled with agency collaboration is what’s needed to ensure consistency and improvement in applying these processes.”