CHALLENGING THE BRIEF – A HOW TO GUIDE ON HOW TO BE DIFFERENT
“There’s usually more to a brief than what’s on the piece of paper” (Ballinger, G.). That’s the phrase that would best summarise my experience working on the University of West London walk2uni campaign. Going for the not-so-ordinary approach was a long process that had multiple steps but overall, it was a win. At least in my book.
Why a team and not freelance
I chose to do this project as a team alongside two strong women as we’ve worked together before and we knew that we could handle the amount of work that was needed to be done for the project. I personally admire everyone that decided to tackle this brief as a freelancer, but I also believed that strategically speaking, it was a wise decision for me to go at it as a team and not risk being overwhelmed by the amount of work that needed to be done. Being my final year at university, this brief was extremely important, as it made out 50% of our final mark, therefore I couldn’t risk going freelance as a first project, especially after a long summer that seemed to go on forever.
The downsides of a team
70% of people who are self-employed say they have a better work-life balance then when they were employed full-time, according to Holly Johnson at Business Insider. That is also the reason why I will tackle the next two briefs of this module as a freelancer. The downsides of being part of a team is that you need to leave everyone time to process information at their own pace and you need to compromise a lot in order to make everyone happy. I believe that in a real-world environment, compromising is not as difficult, as there is also a designated leader inside the team that ultimately decides. When it came to our case, we always had to pitch our ideas and debate amongst the three of us, which I believe slowed us down. We also had to get together (either virtually or in-person when possible), which meant sacrificing other commitments and rearranging our schedule to make sure that we are all available at a specific time each week.
CHALLENGING THE BRIEF
The brief demanded that we make students and staff walk more and start consciously choosing walking or cycling over public transport. The campaign's tone of voice was supposed to be “educational” and that’s when we decided to challenge the brief. “Disruptive strategies cross borders”, as Alice K. Taylor (2013, p.90) mentioned herself, and that’s exactly what we wanted to do. We wanted to take a risk and do something different. I feel like challenging the brief is an important part of the strategy. We are supposed to know how to quickly analyse the market and see if the strategy and the creative brief that we have is actually going to work. In our case, after both primary and secondary research, we decided we are not going to stick to the tone of voice of the brief, and we are going to replace educational with humorous. We decided to create an awareness campaign, not for the benefits of walking, but exactly the opposite. We created an awareness campaign for the disadvantages that appear when you take public transport. We did not want to do it in a derogatory way,
as sometimes public transport is the only option that someone
has available (people with disabilities, long distances, shorter
commute times in between cities or even countries), so we
used humour. Humour resonates perfectly with young people, especially students, as it’s something where the effect of “greenwashing” doesn’t apply. It’s simply something different and fresh. Something that puts a smile in the corner of your mouth.
TAKE THE RISK OR PLAY IT SAFE?
Sam Small has once said an evergreen truth, which is “Whilst you many believe that by challenging the brief, you’re now able to bask in the glory that your pitch will be smarter than the rest, the reality is that you’re now the riskier option to go with”. That being said, we knew the risk we were taking, and we decided to go with it. I personally loved our concept and strategy and thought that if delivered well during the presentation, could be the winning pitch. I like to trust my idea and not overthink, as I believe that overthinking leads to ruining an initial authentic thought that you had when you created something. The same concept of “the trap of overthinking” is also brought up in an article by Lucas DiPietrantonio for Entrepreneur.com
PEOPLE WANT SOMETHING DIFFERENT
Because of the current climate, people are already scared, confused and aware of all the bad things that are happening throughout the world. From the climate crisis to the pandemic. They don’t want only bad news to be displayed on every platform. They want to escape. We provided that escape for them, even if it was only for a short period of time.
Our campaign aims to be relatable. We all have at least one situation where we said to ourselves “I shouldn’t have taken the bus/tube/train”. Some, if not most of these situations have a funny component in them, so it’s an easy way to call for user generated content, to make people feel like they are not only part of the campaign, but part of the solution, making them ambassadors of the walk2uni movement. The campaign can be scalable on a London-basis or even nationally. Walk2uni doesn’t have to be particular to University of West London. Every university in the whole of the UK can apply this to their own campuses and put their own take on it, twisting and creating their own creatives, in the form of outdoor advertising or social media posts. It’s sharable, it’s ownable, it’s relatable.
By challenging the brief, we took a risk that we were aware of. It shocked people, but it was fresh. It did not bore you with details that you were aware of already, like how walking is good for you or for the planet. Perhaps we won’t win, but I applaud us for finding the courage to challenge a brief in our third year of university and I believe that this skill will be extremely valuable for any kind of brief that we will work on, either in a team or as a freelancer.
Ballinger, G. (2017) Making the difference: Challenge the brief, listen more and save your client money. Available at: https://marcommnews.com/making-the-difference-challenge-the-brief-listen-more-and-save-your-clients-money/(Accessed: 22/11/2020)
Johnson, H. (2019) 4 reasons my freelance career is more secure than your full-time job. Available at: https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/reasons-freelance-career-is-more-secure-than-full-time-job-2019-8?r=US&IR=T (Accessed: 22/11/2020)
Small, S. (2017) The problem with briefs and how to turn them into exciting projects. Available at: https://www.madebymany.com/stories/the-problem-with-briefs-and-how-to-turn-them-into-exciting-projects(Accessed: 22/11/2020)
Taylor, A. K. (2013) Strategic thinking for advertising creatives. London: Laurence King Publishing Ltd.