If Cannes is adland's playground for the celebration of creative work, the IPA Effectiveness Awards is the industry's attempt to highlight its accountability. At least, that was the intention when the scheme started 25 years ago.
This year, the ceremony, held at the London Hilton on Monday, received entries from a record 53 agencies, a result of the IPA opening the awards to non-member and non-advertising agencies.
It was clearly a positive change to the rules: two-thirds of the finalists had used through-the-line campaigns. The rise of integrated communications also reflects the reality of the communications market.
Multichannel marketing has been growing over the past decade, gathering pace in the past three years as a side-effect of the downturn, as clients squeeze more value out of their budgets.
But did this year's results provide any evidence that the ad industry is closer to convincing the City and clients that it is a serious business?
This year, the IPA had its first female convenor of the judges, Alison Hoad, a planning partner at Campbell Doyle Dye and a former Procter & Gamble marketer. She says: "This year's case studies talk a lot about future brand value - communication as an investment, not just a cost.
"We're having to prove that the money spent on communications is paid back, but if you're a finance director you're not worried about the past - you're worried about the future value of your brand."
The Grand Prix-winning campaign from Vallance Carruthers Coleman Priest for O2's rebrand from BT Cellnet clearly demonstrated how marketing can boost a company's bottom line as well as provide a strong identity. "O2 had to change from an ugly duckling into a swan," Hoad says.
According to its entry, the company's marketing investment paid for itself 60 times over, generating an incremental £493 million in profit in the two years to December 2003. Using a predictive econometric model based on average revenue per user over an average customer lifetime of six years, it should raise future revenues of several billion.
It was able to do this thanks to an advertising concept, executed across multiple media, that combined short-term sales-building initiatives - among them the Big Brother sponsorship, which promoted texting - with longer-term brand building.
The awards aim to recognise results, so, naturally, all the winners of gold awards were beacons of achievement when it came to making a return on investment. A good example was Wieden & Kennedy's "power of dreams" campaign, which picked up a gold and The John Bartle Award for Best New Agency. Its entry showed how it helped boost profits by repositioning Honda and using its advertising to give it credibility.
The campaign included the famous "cog" ad, which in addition to TV and cinema, also ran in the press as a DVD insert and helped Honda to boost sales by 28 per cent and revenues by £388 million.
The IPA has been encouraging greater collaboration between agencies.
One gold-winning campaign was a joint effort by three ad agencies; Abbott Mead Vickers BBDO, Bartle Bogle Hegarty and Euro RSCG London won Best Dedication to Effectiveness for their tobacco control campaigns.
Each agency approached the brief from the Department of Health from the angle of their respective charity clients. Euro RSCG developed the "artery" campaign for the British Heart Foundation. AMV created the testimonial campaign about not smoking around children for the NHS. BBH developed "death repackaged", telling people that lower tar does not mean less danger. The collaboration resulted in 1.1 million fewer people smoking in the UK and 50 per cent more people calling the NHS Quit Smoking helpline. To pay for itself, the campaign needed to have accounted for 7,661 of the 1.1 million people who quit.
One of the more traditional collaborations was from the gold winners WCRS and Naked for the launch of The Number 118 118.
Branding work began five months before the directory enquiries market opened up to competition. "Without The Number 118 118, there would be no challenger to BT," Hoad says.
Of the £13.5 million commu-nications budget, £2 million was spent on buying the phone number. The campaign's return on investment was £45.4 million and The Number 118 118 commands a 45 per cent market share compared with BT's 34 per cent.
Although a large portion of the finalists ran across a number of channels, the gold award for Best Integration went to TBWA\London and Fishburn Hedges for the launch of the Congestion Charge scheme.
The campaign generated 500,000 pre-registrations for payment, with new channels such as the internet and text accounting for 25 per cent of payments.
This successful use of different media epitomises how agencies are having to be creative in their use of media to combat the growing difficulty advertisers face in getting the attention of consumers.
Will Collin, a partner at Naked and one of the judges, says: "This is increasingly important as people's lives become busier and media channels more fragmented. You can't rely on consumers to follow habitual routines.
"Media is now a major part of the strategy, whereas before it was just a place to show the ads."
BBH, which picked up Best Media for the launch of Lynx Pulse, took an unusual approach to target the notoriously hard-to-reach male youth market.
It achieved its objective of creating a buzz around the product with an ad that featured a geeky-looking bloke, the funky track Make Luv by the then virtually unknown dance act Room 5 and a series of simple dance steps.
The track reached number one in the charts and the campaign, which also used online, PR and ambient media, generated revenue of £20 million and crossed into the realms of brand entertainment.
The awards not only demonstrated strategic prowess, however. Many of the winners also occupy the creative high ground. Honda, Lynx and The Number 118 118 ads have received regular plaudits at the various creative awards ceremonies and are now able to shout about their effectiveness, too.
As budgets get tighter, the IPA Effectiveness Awards 2004 did a good job of demonstrating to the client community that good creative and strategic work is well worth paying for.
- Leader, page 20.
IPA GOLD WINNERS
Bartle Bogle Hegarty, Euro RSCG London
Cravendale: DDB London and DDB Matrix
Virgin Mobile: Rainey Kelly Campbell Roalfe/Y&R
Central London Congestion Charge for Transport for London: TBWA\London
and Fishburn Hedges
The Number 118 118: WCRS and Naked Communications
Honda UK: Wieden & Kennedy