Crispin Porter + Bogusky Briefing Format

I’ve always had  massive respect and admiration for the guys over at CPB – I love 90% of their work, they continually create culture with the work they do for brands like Burger King, Domino’s, VW and even most recently on Microsoft and Nike +. I  came across the key elements of their creative brief which i think are fantastic, as they really lay the foundations for culture creating ideas that generate mass buzz and engagement.

The key difference with other agency briefing formats is  that they focus on ‘tensions in culture’ and a key ‘Question’ to be answered, rather than a focus on messaging. From listening to Suzanne Powers speak (Crispins Global strategy head) Crispin may go into a creative briefing with numerous ‘questions’ to be answered.

.Here are the key elements to their brief:


– What is the most relevant and differentiating idea that will surprise consumers or challenge their current thinking of the brand?


– What is the psychological, social or cultural tension associated with this idea? What makes our target tense about the idea?

Cultural truths are always moving, so tensions are everywhere. The most interesting tension needs to make you squirm a bit. That’s where energy lies.


– What is the question we need to answer to complete this assignment?

The question should release the tension by shifting culture, making it controversial and related to the product truth. If it wouldn’t generate conversation over dinner, it’s not big or provocative enough.


– What about the brand could help us start a dialogue between the brand and our consumers, among our target and/or within pop culture?

The reason I like this briefing format so much is that is is so different to that of 90% of the other agencies in the world which typically talk through Problem, Target, Insight, Proposition/Comms Challenge, RTB, Creative Though Starters, Brand Personality. It’s also maybe why there work polarises as their starting point is all about picking tensions in culture that the brand can contribute/start a conversation in culture around.

The other interesting point of note, is the fact that creative ideas at CPB are always presented back as news headlines or press releases. Getting talked about in culture is an unfair business advantage and what brands are constantly searching for in the social age.

8 thoughts on “Crispin Porter + Bogusky Briefing Format

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  2. Hey Dan,

    Like this post very much. Have too found that briefing formats often do not tap into that all important key that is the identification of what consumers want to talk about in regards to that particular brand/product. Will be keeping these few questions aside for future reference.


  3. Hi Dan, great post. This type of approach is something that here across the Ogilvy network, is increasingly becoming integral to how we think about strategy development. There’s a nice deck by our Ogilvy PR Asia CEO here
    The basic premise is brands best self + cultural tension = big ideal opportunity.

    Both are approaching the same thing in slightly different ways I think but with the end goal of earning attention. Coming from a PR perspective, this really works because we’re trying been trying to earn media (on and offline) since the inception of the industry and to do this most effectively, the clients that we work for increasingly cannot just say something, they need to do something too (blurring the line between corporate reputation management and brand building) and having a big ideal which helps answer or address a cultural tension for a business’ customer is a good way for brands to earn that attention.

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  6. I like that format. Really what we are getting at are the emotions we want to evoke in our target audience. Most people impulse buy and rationalize the decision later, even if it’s a good decision. I like the verbiage used in this format because it seems to focus on capturing the emotional tenor that will affect a positive decision to buy.

    Honestly, briefs are just a means to an end and: communication. Jon Steel said in his great book Truth, Lies and Advertising that many times on some of the most successful campaigns, he never really wrote much down. I feel planners are liaisons for creatives giving them helpful insight to make an ad/brand/campaign work. Getting too hung up on a brief could waste a lot of time.

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