Chris Hirst: Why effectiveness is the single most important thing we do
A view from Chris Hirst

Chris Hirst: Why effectiveness is the single most important thing we do

The Havas European CEO and chair of the IPA's Effectiveness Leadership Group explains why effectiveness is the most important part of any campaign.

Effectiveness is still talked about in our industry and within our agencies as just one of the things we do and it still falls a long way behind creativity as the industry’s measure of individual agencies’ strength and success.

I believe it is more important than ever that that ends now. Effectiveness isn’t just one of the things we do – it is the single most important: it’s why our clients hire us. Creativity is a means to this end.

Throughout my career I have heard agency folk bemoan their slide from the fabled "top table". At least one reason for this is our inability or unwillingness to do enough to demonstrate that what we do delivers hard business results. Of the over 1,300 awards handed out at this year's Cannes Lions, only three are for creativity that translated into sales. That doesn’t mean the others didn’t (once you hack through the scam and nonsense) but it does suggest where our industry’s priorities lie.

Furthermore, data is about to transform our industry in at least as dramatic a way as digital did nearly 10 years ago. Suddenly it’s going to be easier (or appear to be easier!) to measure what we do, as well as transforming the role of creativity in communications.

When I took over as chair of the IPA’s Effectiveness Leadership Group I set out to do two things.

Firstly, it is accepted in agencies that the IPA Effectiveness Awards are the gold standard demonstration of advertising’s (in the broadest sense) ability to deliver results. However, our task at the IPA is not to promote our awards, but the power of our industry, so we must set about broadening and deepening the culture of "work that works" as widely and rapidly as possible. As the data transformation arrives we must have an effectiveness culture baked in to all our agencies. At present way too few can truly claim this. Ultimately, it must become THE thing we do.

Secondly, although the number of agencies entering effectiveness awards remains too small, it is growing; we have done quite a good job of educating our own industry. Unfortunately, among the client community we have made insufficient progress. And in an increasingly data driven world it is critical that boardrooms understand and recognise their agency partners as being as obsessively results driven as they are.

For this reason we have re-directed the focus of the Effectiveness Leadership Group toward the client community, the first external evidence of which being the inaugural Effectiveness Week in November, which has been heavily influenced by, and targeted at, the brands and clients we all work for.

Great marketing transforms brands and businesses. But there is much, much more to be done by us as an industry (and by our clients) to demonstrate that this is the case on a consistent and predicable basis.

We must enable a culture of ‘how and why it works’ in our agencies and begin this learning process from day one for everybody in the industry. We must shift our obsession with creative award shows to a greater emphasis on effectiveness. We must find ways for all agencies (not just the usual suspects) to have the resources be able to take part, even if that means evolving the awards themselves. And finally we must make effectiveness part of our everyday dialogue with our clients - I hope Effectiveness Week will help a few more agencies to make that change.

Chris Hirst is the chair of the IPA’s Effectiveness Leadership Group and the European and UK group chief executive of Havas