INTERACTIVE: BEHIND THE HYPE/DO CLIENTS KNOW HOW TO GET WHAT THEY WANT?; Briefing well for a new-media project is the key to success

Meg Carter finds out some of the shortcomings in the way clients communicate new-media briefs to shops

Meg Carter finds out some of the shortcomings in the way clients

communicate new-media briefs to shops



Advertisers and their agencies may be more confident these days about

using new media for advertising and promotional campaigns, but their

understanding of what constitutes a good new-media brief often leaves

much to be desired.



‘Many people are spending a lot of time answering briefs that are moving

targets,’ Rob Norman, the managing director of CIA Interactive, says.

‘You can put the same brief out to five different new-media specialists

and get quotes back ranging from pounds 20,000 to more than pounds

100,000. Often briefs are too open and allow a wide range of assumptions

and interpretations to be made.’



Both advertisers and, to a lesser extent, their advertising agencies are

to blame, the specialists maintain. In many cases, each gets bogged down

with new-media minutiae, losing sight of the bigger picture; what they

want to achieve and why they want to achieve it.



Blindingly obvious? Far from it, according to Ajaz Ahmed, a partner of

the new-media specialist, AKQA: ‘Every single brief and briefing process

we have encountered has been different.’



While this is, to a certain extent, understandable - every client has a

different approach and its own unique objectives - the time has come for

new-media practitioners to consider just how business is being done,

Ahmed believes.



There is no set pattern for commissioning a new-media campaign.

Advertisers work either directly with new-media specialists, via their

advertising agencies, or with the agencies’ fledgling in-house new-media

departments. Each approach has its own pitfalls, says Patrick Burton,

group media manager at Allied Domecq, which operates an interactive pub

network, online Web and bulletin board services.



‘One of the major problems is dealing with existing ad agencies - many

are very comfortable with strategic planning, but have minimal expertise

in new media,’ he explains. ‘Give them a communications brief and you

are still unlikely to get great new media as either they don’t

understand it or it’s not profitable for them.’



All too often, briefs from agencies to specialists are verbal, one

consultant admits. But going direct to a specialist is not trouble-free.

‘You must take on managing the entire project yourself,’ Burton says.

‘Clients need to know too much at the moment. You have to have some

understanding to perceive the potential and clarify objectives in a

brief.’



But over-enthusiasm can be just as bad. ‘A little knowledge can be a

dangerous thing,’ according to Felix Velarde, a director of the new-

media design and production consultancy, Hyperinteractive.



There are three kinds of new-media brief, he explains. ‘First there’s

the highly knowledgeable brief - they’re very rare. Then there’s the

‘I’ve heard about it and want something that works’ approach - the most

common and, I’d say, most preferable. And finally, the ‘we don’t know

what we’re doing but we want to go online’ - often the most troublesome

and the type we try to avoid.’



Velarde believes the best briefs evolve from specialists working closely

with ‘brand custodians’ - be it the client or advertising agency - to

discuss and agree objectives. ‘People who have heard of Java or Net

video often don’t understand the implications. Their expectations are

overly high, when they should be considering the fact that heavy

graphics, video and audio will not enable easy - or fast - access to

their site.’



It is essential that clients understand the context in which their new-

media marketing will appear and the long-term relevance of executions

conceived today, Mike Beeston, a director of the new-media specialist,

CHBi, says.



‘There is a tendency for clients to pick on one medium - such as the Net

- which is a shame, because over time opportunities will change,’ he

explains. ‘The Web might not exist in its current form in a year’s time.

They should take a strategic, longer-term view - building a site that’s

structured for new development; generating content usable across a

variety of new-media platforms.’



But is the consensus approach to briefing really such a good idea? After

all, effectively it means the specialist writing - or, more often,

rewriting - the client’s brief.



Norman thinks not. But he does believe advertisers must seek specialist

advice much earlier. ‘They should speak to new-media consultants before

they even think of starting the briefing process, and not necessarily

the same specialist they eventually plan to use.’



Of the plethora of ‘online’ industry conferences held each month, none

has yet addressed how to master effective and creative new-media

briefing, he adds. ‘Maybe it’s an Incorporated Society of British

Advertisers’ issue. But the fact remains: it’s time to grow up.’ Ahmed

agrees: ‘There needs to be a new-media industry with certain standards.’



The challenge has been issued.



New-media briefing tips



* Clarify marketing objectives from the outset, consider new-media

objectives in the broader picture.



* Include details of exactly what makes the brand unique and also how

these values are communicated in other media.



* Which platform? Remember, briefing an execution for CD-Rom is not the

same as briefing for the Net.



* Content - consider carefully the balance between information and

entertainment. And don’t over-burden consumers with excessive volume

just because you can.



* Propose a framework for gauging effectiveness by understanding the

different ways response can be assessed. Effectiveness is better

measured against marketing objectives than technology - for example, if

globalising a brand via the Net, look at origin of ‘hits’ instead of

number.



* Ensure the new-media brief is relevant to the client’s new-media

experience - a first timer is likely to have different objectives from a

company already online.



* Cost - don’t enter the briefing process thinking only of a one-off

set-up cost. Ask what it will take to support a Website for a year to

ensure it’s regularly updated and promoted.



* And lower those expectations. As technology moves forward fast, don’t

assume results can be achieved quicker without adequate planning or

testing.



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