On the Campaign Couch ... with JB

Q: Which is more valuable to an agency: an award for creativity or one for effectiveness?

A: Rather than answer this interesting question myself, I put it to an intelligent Martian who'd just dropped by for a cup of mint tea and a bit of a chin-wag. Since he'd only just arrived on our planet, he first needed to ask a few questions himself.

Martian: What are agencies for?

JB: To help their clients be more successful than they otherwise would have been.

M: How is success determined?

JB: It varies client by client. But usually by measuring growth: of sales, share-of-market, profit margins - that sort of thing. It's always based on numbers.

M: Are all marketing campaigns designed to affect consumer behaviour?

JB: Certainly most.

M: Who judges effectiveness awards - and on what basis?

JB: Experienced marketing people, based on rigorous, data-based submissions running to several thousand words. Only measured achievement counts.

M: Who judges creative awards - and on what basis?

JB: Senior creative people, based on their immediate reaction to any given advertisement.

M: Any numbers?

JB: No.

M: Do these senior creative people know whether these advertisements have achieved their objectives?

JB: No.

M: How many creative awards are given every year?

JB: Many thousands.

M: How many effectiveness awards are given every year?

JB: A few hundred.

M: Thank you. I'm now in a position to answer your original question.

Effectiveness awards recognise in a definitive manner the achievement by an agency of its fundamental function: its reason for existence.

It is beyond challenge that these advertisements have worked; have more than paid for themselves; have helped their clients be more successful than they otherwise would have been.

Creative awards merely reflect the unsupported opinion of a few individuals that these advertisements should work. Furthermore, creative awards outnumber effective awards by a factor of at least ten, thus giving effectiveness awards a rarity value.

Potential clients will automatically rank candidate agencies first on their proven ability to make their existing clients successful and hardly at all on their ability to attract the superficial approval of fellow creatives.

It follows that, of the two, the effectiveness award is by far the more valuable. This answer is so blindingly obvious that I'm frankly surprised you bothered to ask it.

Much enjoyed the mint tea. Must get some in for the spaceship. TTFN.

Martians are a lot better than we are at space travel but they're not as good as we are at understanding human beings; understandable, I suppose.

Creativity is never an end in itself; it is the means to an outcome. And while the outcome is what clients devoutly hope for, it is the means that fascinate them. No other key supplier - of plant, money or raw materials - can transform a client's business simply through the application of inspired ideas.

There's a gratifying correlation between advertising that wins creative awards and advertising that works; by no means perfect but enough to reassure. If you were looking for an agency capable of conjuring up an inspired idea or two, which agency would interest you the more: the one with 25 4,000-word successful IPA submissions to its credit, or the one with a funky atrium overflowing with trophies? Only a Martian would plump for the first.

Q: Integration is the current mot du jour, and various groups are taking various approaches. Which, in your view, is the best?

A: It's more the mot du siecle. Twenty years ago, you could take your pick from Aggregate Marketing, 360-Degree Branding, The Whole Egg, One Voice and seven others I've forgotten.

Since then, as client demand for integration has soared, their suppliers have dis- integrated. So until the return of the full-service agency, the client will have no choice but to be the leader of the band. When a brand's communications remain unintegrated, confused consumers step in and do it themselves; seldom to the brand's advantage.

- "Ask Jeremy", a collection of Jeremy Bullmore's Campaign columns, is available from Haymarket, priced £10. Telephone (020) 8267 4919.

Jeremy Bullmore welcomes questions via campaign@haymarket.com or Campaign, 174 Hammersmith Rd, London W6 7JP.