Creative Process: Tom Dumore on decoding the creative brief

Creative Director Tom Dunmore and his thirst for better, better and, well, better…

Every day Mediablaze faces a raft of new challenges.

Every day Mediablaze faces a raft of new challenges. Chief among these are the decoding of creative briefs. So how does the Mediablaze team approach a new test of its creative mettle? Who better to ask than our creative director Tom Dunmore?

Creative director Tom Dunmore (centre) at work

MB: Tell us about the creative process when you receive a new brief. Is there a standard process you go through? 

TD: It’s essential to get to the heart of the campaign as quickly as possible, so when a client comes to us with a brief we’ll edit and rework it. It’s not that we’re hoping to create something better – it’s just that rephrasing and reframing things can really help to identify the core thinking and key challenges. And because we have a template to work to, it also helps to fill in any gaps.

Once the reworked brief is signed off by the client, the creative thinking can really begin. At Mediablaze we benefit from having a really multi-skilled team of writers, designers and filmmakers with a strong strategic vision. Ultimately it all boils down to putting the audience first, and asking what will excite and engage them on an ongoing basis.

MB: Is it ever a concern that your ambition outweighs your ability to deliver? Do you sometimes think that you’ve set yourself up to fail?

TD: Not at all. Once you have a decent team, delivery is just a matter of time and effort. As for ambition – well, you have to be brave enough to make mistakes, and hope the client will be brave with you. But the beauty of content marketing is that it’s an ongoing process: you have to try things out, be honest about what works and what doesn’t, and then refine accordingly. It’s iterative, just like magazine publishing.

“I always think we can do better,
that’s what drives me.”

MB: What does success look like? It’s a phrase that’s often asked of clients, but what is success from your point of view?

TD: I always think we can do better, that’s what drives me. So I suppose success is being given permission to keep on working, to keep on talking – by our clients but also by the audiences we speak to.

Having said that, it’s getting easier to prove value since we’ve started really developing our insight team (after all, data is dumb; it’s the application of data that’s important). And with the launch of our programmatic content delivery platform we can get closer to guaranteeing audiences and giving demonstrable return on investment.

There was a time when uttering those words would have made me die a little inside, but these days they make me proud because we can use science to make our art more powerful. I’m still careful not to use the word ‘content’ more often than I have to, though – the rubbish in your bin is also content: we’re striving to produce stories and experiences that have a real effect on people. I think that’s more than just ‘content’.

MB: When a client’s briefing you, do you have any pet peeves that prevent/hinder you from doing the job to the best of your abilities?

TD: It’s really important to me to understand who the target audience is and why you’re expecting them to be interested. I need to imagine myself as the person who will be consuming the work we produce. That’s easier than it sounds – human states of mind are fairly universal – but it frustrates me when people overcomplicate things, particularly by relying on technical terminology or hiding behind marketing clichés. You don’t have to speak to your audience in acronyms just because they’re IT experts, for example – they’re still normal humans who thirst to understand things simply without having to Google every other word.

MB: What’s been your finest hour in terms of taking a client brief and building it into something REALLY special?

TD: I’m always learning, and the team is learning and growing too, so I don’t think it’s a platitude to say that every new brief is something special. It’s really more of a question of how much are we allowed to influence. When we’re a core part of the agency mix – as we have been with Timberland, for example – we can start to really deliver on our potential and produce work that takes my breath away. And yet I know that I’ll look back on it next year and say: “I can’t believe I thought that was so brilliant – look at what else we’ve done since then!”

MB: What excites you most about content marketing and where it’s all headed?

TD: I loved being a magazine editor in my former life, because it was a simple relationship with a passionately engaged audience. But working with brands, and embracing new social platforms, opens up so many new possibilities. It’s a far more complex relationship, but that means it also has far more creative possibilities. It seems to me that content marketing – by which I mean having a dialogue with your customers around shared passions and compelling stories – is the most important way that a brand can communicate in this social age. But then I would say that, wouldn’t I?

Say hello

Are you looking for a fresh pair of eyes on your creative brief? We’d love to hear from you – [email protected].

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