I learned a lot as 2020 convenor of the IPA Effectiveness Awards.
The intense (most intense in advertising worldwide?) judging process begins with reading thousands of words. More than 60 papers of 4000 words plus appendices. Then, as convenor, I attended three rounds (six afternoons) of judging on Zoom: technical judges; industry judges; client judges.
The wisdom and commitment of all the judges was unquestionable. The process was long, hard and argumentative. More argumentative than 2018 when there was more consensus of opinion. This year there was plenty of debate and discussion, opinions were changed, minds were made to rethink. I learned a lot from my fellow judges including the problems with “Monte Carlo simulations” (which sound more exciting than they are.) And I observed a passion for effectiveness among the judges, which paints a very optimistic picture of our industry.
There are several key themes from the well-deserved winners, which are detailed in the AdWorks book available from the IPA. The themes include the power of insight, the importance of belief in brand advertising, a redefinition of being a challenger, lessons in brand turnaround, the impact of real-life stories, how a great PR stunt can revive a brand and the role of tech in driving effectiveness.
There is one, overriding lesson, which the Grand Prix winner (Tesco, pictured above), the winner of best dedication to effectiveness (Audi) and the winner of best new learning (Diageo), all evidenced. The one, overriding lesson of the 2020 IPA Effectiveness Awards is the crucial importance of the entire business, not just the marcomms team, being focused on marketing effectiveness.
This is when great long-term thinking can thrive. Where marketing is never regarded as a cost, but as an investment. Where strategic decisions can be based on creating sustainable demand, not just selling loss-leaders. It applies to client companies, but also to advertising agencies and media agencies. It actually applies throughout the advertising ecosystem at its most complex.
If the advertising agency is creating ads for the industry, rather than for customers, then it shows. Every year new creative work can lead to the extinction of effective brand icons and fluent devices (as System1 describes the memorable ad assets of a brand.) Agencies dedicated to effectiveness rather than peer approval break this cycle and create long-term effective work.
Media budgets must be deployed strategically not just to deliver immediate key performance indicators and this too must be deep in the culture of the agency.
We need this cultural alignment in media owners, too. Brands can only successfully partner media owners who have effectiveness built into their thinking, not just a quick sale to boost one month’s targets.
This year’s awards demonstrated the strategic power of PR stunts to drive growth. Only PR activations that enhance brand power deliver this, and this too requires a cultural addiction to effectiveness not to generating views and creating empty clickbait.
Most of all it is the client company culture that allows great effective marketing to thrive.
The winners of the IPA Effectiveness Awards will be the envy of their peers. A thorough reading of the papers delivers a blueprint for driving growth, which cannot be aped without a reset of the values of the boardroom so that they respect and value effective marketing for the long term.
Sue Unerman is chief transformation officer at MediaCom