Ask the Board – February 13, 2017 | PETER RIVERA


Can you walk us through the steps for a creative brief and pitch for accounts that require multiscreen solutions?”

A good brief contains some immutable items, the first revolving around audience. So, the “Who” is the first thing a good strategist will consider, the psychographics of the people that the solution is supposed to dazzle, communicate to, entertain and connect with. It’s easy to say “everyone of all ages” of course, but it’s another thing to say “groggy commuters heading to work with a coffee, those same people heading home after a long day.” One is just a cut and paste of tech onto a wall or building, the other inspires you to consider the viewer a bit more and how they will respond. Knowing your audience leads to other questions such as “What social media integration should we consider?” and “How digitally savvy is the audience?” These insights early in the process will help to imagine whether or not they have their smartphones handy and how far an idea might be taken.

Context is related to this. When the audience has been identified, the next step is context or “Where.” The spatial design of the installation needs to carefully consider the physical location and relationship to other things around it. Using the earlier example, the solution might be along a corridor, rising up a staircase, next to a glass elevator, or right at the top of the stairs to beguile people as they emerge from a subway (or all of these). Knowing the physical context unleashes the ability to think of more creative solutions, concepts that integrate more into the surroundings and deliver visual stimulus at the moment when it matters. Knowing where the installation will be also helps determine what specific technology and format to recommend. Whether it will be interior signage within a mall, protected and sheltered from the elements; or hardware for an exterior solution that is capable of functioning in sub-zero temperatures in winter and/or in the blazing summer sun.

Which leads to “What.” There are probably preconceptions that potential buyers have regarding a solution, which means that understanding initial expectations is key. The design team may not agree with those recommendations and may want to counter with something else, but it’s critical to vet the requested solution so that your prospect does not sit through the whole meeting thinking, “These people just don’t listen.” Talk about their idea, pros and cons, and then, if you have a superior concept, bring it home during the pitch and try to sell it. Frankly in some cases you are boxed in: specific vendor technologies must be used, space is limited, funds are limited, but your obligation to a client is to deliver the best thinking and to install something from which they will get results.

Speaking of results, a good brief will clarify exactly how success will be measured, beyond delivering the job on time and under-budget. Smart signage and sensors allow measurement of how long people stop and dwell, whether they are looking at the signage or not, even what they may be feeling while they look. This type of real-time sentiment analysis is brand new so any recommendation should include paths to measurement. Having solid metrics enables the optimization of content and promotions to keep the solution relevant day and night.

Clarifying what type of CMS will be used is important (as some are more powerful than others, and should be part of any recommendation where it is not yet a baked-in requirement). Clients may already have a platform in place, so it is critical to know this ahead of time. Being able to day part the content or advertising can have significant impact on the results. That is why it is also important to know which solution may have already been discussed (preconceptions) before recommending another. The brief should also make it clear who is responsible for content. Will it be part of an ad network where there is little control, or something more artful where mood and tone and brand are more the priority and the execution is to be created in-house or must be created as part of the installation or in collaboration with another agency. All of these possibilities help to determine how a solution is going to be put through its paces.

If there are already timing and budget constraints in place, those should be clearly communicated of course, but it’s not the best place to start to get a team thinking creatively.

The approach for a pitch differs depending on the company’s capabilities and the talent on the project. It is preferable to have spatial design comps of some kind to help illustrate the concept direction: using photographs of the space can simulate the installation and the content on the screens so clients truly understand the impact of what they are getting. Easy tools like Google’s Sketchup ( allow creation of animated fly-through scenes that bring the full vision to life dramatically without high expense. If the stakes are high and its possible, prototype the solution physically so that a client can literally see it or a portion of it in action. In the past some of our clients have created spaces where they can beta test installations and get a sense of the dynamics and flow. This is the surest way to land an idea, though it requires that much more scoping investment and time to put on a good pitch.

Any brief should answer the classic Who, What, Where, Why, When and How questions. The pitch should respect the preconceptions of others, but ultimately the concept should deliver the results clarified in the brief.


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VP, Chief Experience Officer

Advertising & Brand Council

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