Clients occasionally want us to jump head-first into their digital advertising campaigns and are surprised when we suggest starting with a project brief.

We get it. You’re excited about your advertising project! We’re excited, too; however, diving right into a new digital marketing campaign without a project brief (sometimes called a client brief) to lay out your plan of action amounts to jumping head-first into expansive advertising waters without a plan for reaching the shore that is your customers.

In short, your campaign needs a project brief because not having one risks both the success of the campaign and your satisfaction with us as a marketing agency. Taking the time to get this step right will make all of our lives easier.

Download Our Guide to Project Briefs

What is a project brief in advertising?

A project brief is essentially a roadmap of your advertising strategy that outlines the goals, key performance indicators (KPIs), scope, timeline, and budget for a given project or campaign. It provides data and insights to justify the actions an agency will take throughout your campaign. You’ll be able to look it over and sign off on everything before your campaign launches, ensuring everyone stays on the same page, and there are no unwanted surprises down the road.

What is the purpose of a project brief?

In digital advertising, a project brief is both a plan of action and a safety net for your campaign. Not only does it lay out the details of our strategy for the whole project, but also clearly outlines the budget you can expect to pay, all the work and deliverables that are included, and any other expectations that need to be clarified for a campaign to go smoothly.

What Should A Project Brief Include?

Most project briefs should contain these seven sections, at a minimum:

  1. Summary
  2. Objectives
  3. KPIs
  4. Scope
  5. Assumptions
  6. Timeline
  7. Estimated Budget

Here’s what each of those should contain.


The summary is an introduction to your engagement with your marketing agency. It outlines the reasons for launching your campaign (i.e., the challenges or opportunities your company is facing) and the phases of your project. If you’ve worked with the same agency before, the summary may include some details about the history of your working relationship, so we can view this new project in the right context.


The objectives portion of the project brief describes the primary goal of your project and any secondary or tertiary goals. It ties each target to the strategy and tactics you plan to use to achieve it. For example, if your primary goal is to increase brand awareness, and the approach is to launch a YouTube ads campaign, the objectives section might say, “To increase awareness of the brand through a targeted YouTube ads campaign….”


The KPIs section will help your team understand how to determine whether the campaign objective has been met. It includes specific metrics based on both business goals and the unique signs of success for your business that will be measured throughout your campaign.

Whereas the objectives section is more general in terms of goals, KPIs require specific numbers and a timeline.

In an awareness-focused YouTube campaign, you might use the following KPIs:

  • Achieve a video click-through rate (CTR) of 15% in the first month
  • Achieve an average view duration of 50% within three months
  • Increase search volume for branded terms by 5% year over year (YoY)


The scope of the project brief outlines the responsibilities of the agency. For larger projects, the scope may be organized into phases.

For first-time engagements (including, those here at Ethoseo), Phase 1 typically includes analytics and measurement set up, ensuring your KPIs can be tracked accurately.

Other beginning phases may include preliminary campaign groundwork like audience research, usability studies, or keyword investigations.

Later phases may include landing page development, A/B testing, and ongoing campaign management.

With a project scope in hand, you’ll know the order of operations for your campaign, plus any limitations you should be aware of beforehand.


The assumptions section of the project brief outlines factors that could impact campaign execution and success. For example, launching a YouTube campaign may rely on video footage provided by the client. One project assumption is that the client will provide all video footage within the time frame outlined in the brief.


The timeline describes how long each phase is expected to take. It may include specific launch or transition dates, or it may simply specify the number of hours each component of a period will take and how that will translate into a monthly, quarterly, or yearly timeline.

Estimated Budget

The budget lets you know how much money you should expect to invest in your project. It sometimes includes price ranges so that you can adjust the scope if necessary based on your resources. Often this is broken out into ad spend and agency fees so that you can track your overall campaign return on investment.

Why are project briefs important?

As a client, you will benefit from having the project’s direction and scope readily available as a reference. With it, you won’t lose sight of the goal you developed with the agency or the process you agreed to follow to meet that goal.

From an agency perspective, it keeps us accountable for the work we do. We’ll know what your goals are, the method we agreed to use to help you reach them, and how we’ll be assessing the outcomes. We can always refer back to it if you have any questions for us about our progress, and that provides a stable, mutually agreed upon reference point for our responsibilities and expectations.

And for both parties, it keeps the project focused! Most businesses have many competing priorities when it comes to brand development and advertising. With a project brief in hand, we’ll know what to focus on for one specific project without getting distracted by new opportunities.

Should agencies charge for project briefs?

While a project brief is a much shorter and less resource intensive document than, say, a statement of work, it does require an in-depth assessment of your organization’s internal resources, goals, and current brand positioning. That said, some agencies will provide a project brief free of charge, with the expectation that you will become a client. Whether an agency charges for the brief or not, you’ll still likely glean valuable insights from it.

So…can you launch an ad campaign without a project brief?

The short answer is that yes, you could launch an advertising campaign with less organization and planning up front, and refine it over time. But unless you already have an overall strategy in place, we wouldn’t recommend it. The benefits a project brief can provide for any campaign are invaluable in ensuring both successful outcomes and a worthwhile working experience for client and agency alike.

What are your thoughts? Do you use project briefs within your organization? Let us know in the comments section below!