Call it fate, call it coincidence, but there’s a certain piquancy
about the fact that - five days after the Institute of Practitioners in
Advertising handed out its effectiveness grand prix to the HEA - last
Sunday’s Breakfast with Frost featured an interview with the drugs czar,
Keith Hellawell. Questioned by Michael Buerk, Hellawell hung on to the
line that, yes, they were winning the war.
Now, it is not the main purpose of this column to attack Duckworth
Finn’s paper. But it is to query the judges’ decision to award it the
Why do I feel uncomfortable with this decision? Two reasons - the first
of which concerns the wider picture. Rightly, the IPA has made much of
the need for the awards to address an audience beyond the marketing
director - primarily, in this case, the chief executives and finance
directors who sign the cheques and the City analysts who effectively
endorse their decisions.
To this end, the IPA has brought the Financial Times into the fold to
provide the most direct route to this audience. Strange then that the
grand prix in the first of these new, improved awards should go to a
campaign and a paper which was avowedly non-commercial in its objective
and which, moreover, did not operate in a competitive framework.
Stranger still that this decision was made by an all-client jury.
The IPA will defend itself by saying it cannot tell a jury how to
I agree. But it can devise a separate category for public service,
charity and non-commercial campaigns from commercial and competitive
Before anybody says this is a cop-out, let me point out that there is
precedent for this. All the major creative awards ceremonies make this
distinction based on the wholly reasonable view that there is a
qualitative difference between, say, a car or a mobile phone advertiser
and a charity or public service.
This is not to say you cannot measure them for effectiveness, merely
that they operate in different worlds and should be judged
By way of interest, looking through the winners of the past four IPA
Effectiveness Awards, I note that although there have been
commendations, not one public service or charity campaign has won a
major prize - the judges in every case plumping for ’commercial’
More to the point, if you look at the five-star winners, does the IPA
really expect the audience it so wishes to impress not to think there’s
something funny about the advertising process if the jury is more
impressed by the proof of a negative (ie I didn’t take drugs today
because of that ad) in a non-commercial context than it is to prove a
positive (ie I bought Colgate/Marmite etc today because of that ad)? I
hope not, but I fear so.
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