The Creative Brief

6 Videos
status pause What is a Creative Brief 02:42 status pause Table of Contents 03:05 status pause Creating the Creative Brief 03:26 status pause Using the Creative Brief 03:08 status pause Two Olympic Cases 05:38 status pause A Checklist for the Creative Brief 04:15
previous Select Series

The Creative Brief Part 5: Two Olympic Cases

130 views • September 24, 2020

The Creative Brief
Part 5: Two Olympic Cases


In this video, we take a look at two Olympic advertising campaigns. One campaign took home the gold and the other... just went home. How much of the Olympic glory, or shame, of those campaigns is attributable to their respective Creative Briefs?
Transcript Now we're going to take a look at a couple of historic design projects. Both began with creative briefs, but one was widely seen as a failure, the other, a great success.
The first is for the London Olympics in 2012. Remember those games? Even if you don't, I'll bet you remember this: The logo for the games set off a firestorm of controversy. Or, as they say in London: "kun-TRAH-va-see."
Although this design had and still has its supporters, most people hated it. So how did that happen?
The logo was designed by acclaimed British firm Wolff Olins. When it comes to agencies, they're a pretty big deal with a great body of work behind them.
Some time after the games, a couple of their executives recounted the process of how they arrived at one of the world's most reviled logos. I mean, obviously they weren't trying to come up with a logo everyone was going to hate, but... anyway.
The creative brief they were working from called for bringing the Games back to the people. It was to be an Olympics for everyone, everywhere. Not just the athletes.
Like the event itself,
the logo was supposed to inspire all of us to get out there and move.
Given that directive, the designers knew they did not want to include iconic landmarks, like Tower Bridge or Big Ben.
They didn't even want traditional athletic emblems, like the winners' podium or torches.
As designer Brian Boylan put it, they wanted something you could bump into in the street. Okay, we get it.
But that doesn't really explain their creative process. The logo, they said, came out of something they called an energy grid, with rays bouncing around inside a rectangle like this.
Then they froze a single frame. Using the lines as guides, they outlined the cluster of shapes that eventually became the logo for the 2012 Games.
Given the brief,
I think it's fair to say the designers stayed within the parameters they were assigned. They might have even been inspired by it. So in that sense, the brief did exactly what it was supposed to do. So, what went wrong? Did something go wrong?
I'll let you be the judge of that. Obviously, the client was happy with it. After all, they didn't send Wolff Olins back to the drawing board. In fact, they paid rather handsomely for it.
But looking at the logo,
does it actually follow the brief? Does it say "sports for everyone" or "person in the street"?
Our contention is that it does. It almost has the look of graffiti--and what could be more men in the street than graffiti ?. Also, it certainly did inspire some people to get into the streets.
You know, I'm not sure those torches meet IOC sponsorship standards. My point is that Wolff Olins followed the brief they were given.
But perhaps that brief should have also stipulated: Don't piss off 90% of the British population when you finalize the design.
Our second case also involves an Olympic branding campaign. This one for Nike during the lead up to the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta.
In this case, the brief's chief takeaway, after much struggle, was a quote from George Orwell: "Sport is war, minus the killing." Interesting quote, huh?
The firm Wieden+Kennedy decided that a single sentence would be the essence of their brief for the games. That, and a book of photographs showing athletes suffering for their sport.
Wieden+Kennedy spent months interviewing athletes to learn what drove them. And in the end, they came up with a series of ads, showing athletes collapsing in pain, athletes vomiting, runners jostling one another as they rounded the last turn for the home sprint.
It was a gritty, controversial campaign. And it was clearly inspired by the creative brief. And in sharp contrast to the 2012 Olympic logo, it was almost universally loved.
For the Nike campaign,
you can clearly trace the path from creative brief to the final ads. Going from "sport is war" to athletes injured and in conflict is not a stretch.
People were eager to see themselves in these warrior athletes. Sounds much more noble and dramatic than, you know, consumers.
So it was a path that people wanted to follow. Even if the destination was not pretty.
The 2012 Olympic logo wasn't pretty either. But more importantly, the message behind it, the one contained in the brief, was flawed.
With their brash and dissonant logo, Wolff Olins wanted to say something about London as a city. And they did.
they forgot that they were also supposed to be saying something about the Olympics--an event steeped in tradition.
It's really a series of ceremonies built around even older competitions, from parading a torch through the streets to awarding the metals at the podium.
So there you have it. Two projects with similar subjects, each launched by a clear brief with a daring message.
The London 2012 campaign tried to redefine what we wanted. The Nike campaign gave us what we wanted.
The lesson here is that a creative brief sets the course for your campaign. A good brief is not a guarantee of a win. But, like a set of starting blocks, it'll give you a fighting chance.
A bad brief makes winning the race almost impossible.

Other videos you may like

Want to get Started?

Tell us about your project
Contact Us