One of the best books I read in my 20s was also one of the shortest.

It was by a man called Paul Arden, an advertising executive at Saatchi & Saatchi in London. He was one of those people who was held in very high regard by his direct peers, but little known outside his sphere.

He probably should have had much more of a following as his ideas were valuable and relevant across a multitude of disciplines. Maybe the fact he passed away in the same year Twitter launched is symbolic – I can imagine him being a big hit there.

Although pretty portable in terms of its application, the book is mainly aimed at advertising creative teams, and I enjoyed pulling what I could into other industries.

One of the best bits is about how creative teams tend to think about briefs.

“We are always waiting for the perfect brief from the perfect client. It almost never happens […] Whatever is on your desk right now, that’s the one. Make it the best you possibly can.” 

I think this very simple advice is even better 10 years later given how our attention spans have dropped, and feelings of entitlement and frustration increased.

I’ve found myself proffering this piece of advice a few times recently to impatient, ambitious or disgruntled peers.

We get fed up with the briefs that cross our desk.

It’s understandable. They’re often dull, or badly written; lacking incisiveness, or too safe.

This isn’t to say we shouldn’t send back bad briefs to their author. But that’s another story.

The point is it’s about focusing on what’s in front of you right now, and like a lot of the best writing this simple little nugget from Mr Arden has a lot packed into it:


You may surprise yourself (and others) at what you can do with what’s right in front of you;

The odds are that you won’t ever get a shot at your dream brief without doing this one first;

The glamour fixtures nearly always come with a catch so be careful what you wish for;

And you never know who’s watching.


Perhaps that brief on your desk right now is perfect. You just don’t know it yet.


> Paul Arden

Here's your perfect brief

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