Anchit Chauhan
Guest Article

Creative brief in the age of TL;DR

As millennials and Gen Zers take over creative departments across agencies, is the creative brief, as we know it, good enough? Or, can it get better?

A creative brief, typically a one-page document with a 12-point font, is so far the most accepted format across agencies as the input document that ‘inspires’ the creatives and ‘defines’ the final output.

Despite the brevity, it’s supposed to cover all aspects of the client, the category, the communication and the consumer, that are critical for the creative department to understand before they start ideating on the campaign.

And it’s the planner’s job to create this document, which requires them to distill all of their understanding, which might comprise of hundreds of PowerPoint slides from endless hours of primary and secondary research, into this one-page document called the creative brief.

It sure takes some doing and skill to be able to filter out the most relevant bits of information, from heaps of data.

However, as time-starved and attention deficit millennials and Gen Zers enter the creative forces in huge numbers, this one-page brief might have one page, too many. The creative brief, in its current form, might have lived its time.

For the newer generations used to 160 character count tweets, byte-sized news articles, more acronyms than actual words. For whom expression and communication is more visual than ever, even on written mediums, with emojis, gifs and memes. The ones who forced publishers to mention the minutes required to read an article, right next to the headline, and who choose their dates by just reading a sentence about them. For (all of) them the one-page brief is, in their own acronym – TL;DR (Too Long; Didn’t Read).

An acronym, I had to Google the first 10 times I heard, or read it, before I could finally remember it.

Many researches have concluded that the average attention span for communication among millennials is 12 seconds, and it’s 30 per cent lesser comparatively for Gen Zers, at eight seconds.

This statistic has defined the new rules of communication, has led to the explosion of short-format advertising, and is the key reason behind top advertising platforms, like Facebook and Google, launching their Thumb-stopper and Bumper formats, respectively. The short-format has also affected TV, as the TVC, in its now luxurious 45-60 second form, makes way for the reduced 10-20 second versions.

Considering that a creative brief is a form of internal communication, designed by planners and targeted at creatives, it’s only logical to make the communication shorter and the brief, well, briefer.

Do the changing times demand a new brief format? Maybe they do. Something short enough to make the cut with the TL;DR generation, yet inspiring enough for them to come up with winning ideas, if you will.

After much deliberation, I went back to the Who-What-Why format, commonly used in consulting workshops, and shuffled around the order a little bit.

Here’s my take on what the future of the creative brief should be:

Why: The reason to do the campaign; the brand problem that needs solving.

Who: The target consumer, and their mindset and behaviour.

What: The communication initiative that helps solve the problem by altering the consumer mindset/behaviour.

To better understand the format, let’s take a couple of retrofitted examples, one from Apple commercial for the iPad, a personal favourite. And, the other from a campaign closer to home by AMFI, which has been one of the most successful campaigns recently, in terms of effectiveness in India, awarded repeatedly at Effies India.


The What’s a Computer campaign by Apple aims to reposition the iPad.

Why: Promote iPad as a capable replacement for the traditional laptop.

Who: Younger audience who require high on-the-go performance, but feel that iPad can't deliver.

What: Position the iPad as the computer from the future.


The Mutual Fund Sahi Hai campaign drove mutual fund (MF) investments in India to record highs.

Why: Increase the acceptance of MFs as an investment option.

Who: Savings oriented consumers, who associate investing with complexity and high risk.

What: By educating consumers that MFds are a simple and convenient option for good returns.

While I’m sure the briefing format will make sense, I also know the response this article will get, especially from the next gen TL;DR.

As the younger generation takes over in the creative department at agencies, is the creative brief, as we know it, as good as it gets? Or, can it be better?

(The author is director – brand strategy at Dentsu WebChutney.)