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Halloween – the open brief.

Think of Halloween as a creative challenge. It’s similar to a creative challenge you’d find in a project brief: There are different audiences to connect with, a message or idea to communicate, an execution to nail and, in this case, project fatigue to overcome; you’ve been assigned the same job every year since your mom quit making your costumes.

This is a project where you have a whole lot of freedom (you are your own client) and an extremely generous timeline (an entire year).

Which can lead to setting pretty high expectations, especially when you’re a creative person and see Halloween as an opportunity, rather than a burden. On top of that, there’s the pressure of a totally open brief: ‘Be anything or anyone you want’.


But, somehow, despite the intimidating blank canvas and the task of coming up with a concept that fits a unique and specific medium (you!), every year new, clever, entertaining, beautiful and inventive costumes come alive to celebrate the most creative holiday of the year.

Have you procrastinated, like any normal creative would, and are still working out your costume idea?

At Calder Bateman, we often start out a project by asking some big, overarching strategic questions to get us inspired and set on the right track. Here are a few questions to help guide concept development for this infamous creative challenge: Halloween.

Nicola Pringle Halloween

1. Who is your audience?

Trick-or-treating with the kids, a Halloween pub crawl and dressing up at the office are all totally different audience segments. Depending on what your communication goals are, a Sexy-Zombie-Nurse, for example, may not be appropriate for one or more of the audiences mentioned above. It’s also important to consider if your joke or statement is relatable to and understandable for your unique audience groups. An inside joke or an overly obscure and specific reference that nobody gets will probably be a disappointment for you and your audience. It’s like the stand up comic that tells a joke that receives zero laughs, except you’re wearing that joke around all day and having to tell it to everyone you see. On the flip-side – a specific joke or reference that everybody gets could create maximum memorability.

The key is knowing your audience.

2. What is your message?

Who are you? What are you? What’s the joke? Where’s the intrigue? An effective costume is something people can understand quickly and easily be entertained by, whether it’s through humour, beauty, creativity or a classic Halloween scare tactic.

Just like any communication piece, you lose your audience if they are confused, disengaged or missing the point.

Your costume is a success if it’s engaging, memorable and shareable. Post likes and shares are totally acceptable measures of success.

3. How do you overcome project fatigue?

As a creative person, there’s a drive to do something different and equally interesting every Halloween. This isn’t always possible. Sometimes budget restrictions revert you back to running the same old creative for a second year in a row. Or maybe time gets away from you and you end up with the last Sexy-Zombie-Prisoner boxed costume from that Halloween store that only exists during October. But there are ways to avoid repeats and disappointing costumes.

Start with Google. There is a huge library of Halloween creativity available for your viewing pleasure right there on the Internet. The ‘Best Halloween Costumes’ image search alone will undoubtedly inspire you to be better than Sexy-Zombie-Cop. Or try thinking differently about your costume concept development process – instead of just looking for someone you want to become or an idea that matches your looks, try being inspired by who you are, what your hobbies and personality traits are, and how they could spark a costume idea.

When you are the medium for the execution, who you are plays a big part in the costume concept. This works especially well when your audience is made up of people you know. If your hobbies and personality traits are a part of your costume, it will have deeper meaning and create a higher impact.

4. What are the important details?

The execution of your idea can make or break it’s success. For example: you can’t pull off a good Trump costume without that floppy red hair, nor can you do Edward Scissorhands without the scissor hands… and hair… and make-up. Those may seem like obvious details to include but without some specific and key visual indicators, your idea can be easily unseen or miscommunicated. So if you’re Cruella Deville- it’s just not the black and white hair-do that paints the picture; you need the gloves, the coat AND that skinny smoke stick she carries. And maybe even a puppy. If you’re Richard Simmons, get the right fro, make sure those short-shorts are short enough and be sure to have a significant amount of pep in your step.

The level of finish should also align with the concept itself.

Some ideas can be executed with a loose unfinished style still and communicate a character or concept perfectly. Others heavily rely on the quality of execution – planning and preparation. Don’t start your Darth Maul or Day of the Dead make-up with only half-an-hour left before the party.

Still no ideas? In that case, we don’t mind sharing some of our own.

Check out some of our past favourite Calder Bateman Halloween costumes below and then on Oct 31st, make sure to follow us on Twitter to see the best of 2016.

Ryan Kenny – Senior Creative Strategist/Copywriter

Ryan Kenny - Halloween

Vanessa Tracy-Roth – Project Lead

Vanessa Tracy-Roth - Halloween

Craig Marler – Senior Strategist

Craig Marler - Halloween

Andrea Peyton – Senior Financial Officer

Andrea Peyton - Halloween

Cheryl Meger – Strategist

Cheryl Halloween

James Lo – Digital Coordinator

James Lo Halloween

Kayla Panizzon – Project Lead

Kayla Halloween

Monica MacLean – Senior Project Coordinator

Monica Halloween

Nicola Pringle – Creative Director (me!)

Nicola - Halloween

About the author

Nicola Pringle
Recognized as one of Strategy Magazine’s top 25 Art Directors in Canada, Nicola has garnered many of the industries most sought after national and international awards. Her dogged determination to find the best solution for a client's brand can be attributed to her innovative strategic thinking—or perhaps her competitive spirit honed from years of demolishing opponents on the slow-pitch field.

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