Too often, we look at problems in the wrong way and find creative solutions that can be lauded and applauded. But we cannot say how they helped to make a difference to the bottom line of the clients that commissioned them.
This cannot be right and it risks damaging our reputation as an industry. We know that the most creative work delivered against the most rigorous thinking can achieve astonishing results – but, far too often, we celebrate short-term thinking and quick fixes and call these "effectiveness". They’re not.
Part of the problem lies in planning’s success, which adds to the challenge we as an industry face: who "owns" or is responsible for the overarching business and creative strategy for a brand and how do we all pull together to show how collective creativity can make a tangible difference? The growth of data collection and analysis is also problematic when it is not shared or used by the collective planning community for the common good of the brand. In our business, we’ve come across clients who are looking to showcase their brand’s success, and have four or five agencies and planners demonstrating "success" in different ways, failing to work together to a clear, coherent strategy.
We need to take a few steps back and look at how we approach the client’s issue and avoid the territorialism often found among agencies. Irrespective of whether you’re part of a brand experience specialist, PR consultancy, shopper marketing company or "classic" ad agency, you should always begin by getting to grips with the client’s business model. Every client, whether an overt commercial enterprise, charity brand or government department, has one.
Then we should start the forensic process of getting to the actual commercial issue that the brand is experiencing and try to understand what behaviour change is required to address it. We can then assess what role there is for different types of communications to work together to create the desired result.
Far to often, we celebrate short-term thinking and quick fixes and call these 'effectiveness'. They're not
It’s helpful if all parties work to a common strategic "map" that shows exactly how each channel and creative solution links to the overarching commercial need. Once the phases of the strategic solution are fully mapped, it’s easier to define the right metrics to analyse each element and demonstrate the crucial inter-relationship of the channels. If created correctly, it will serve as a metrics "dashboard", allowing you to assess the right things with the right criteria and keep track of how the brand is performing versus the solution that was created.
To get great creativity, you need great creatives – but creativity alone is not enough. There’s no point having creativity that doesn’t deliver the right results. Great strategy shows creatives the target and points them in the right direction with enough information to inspire them to go above and beyond and reach creative excellence. And I mean excellence in the truest sense: groundbreaking and, most importantly, delivering the commercial objectives.
So the onus is on strategists to be clear about the commercial need and the role for their specific areas of expertise and its contribution to the overarching brand strategy. We need more collaboration and co-operation and, above all, time to address why a client is asking for something. Clients may not want risk but demand great creativity from our industry; the problem is that great creativity is inherently risky, so the opportunity is to use effectiveness as a risk manager and a way to sell in great work.
Whether it be through the Cannes Creative Effectiveness Lions or any other celebration of creative value creation, we must all get into the habit of trying to understand the true commercial value generated by our industry. If we are to make headway in clients’ boardrooms, we must treat our creative efforts as an investment rather than just another ad campaign.
Gurdeep Puri is a founding partner of The Effectiveness Partnership, an IPA Effectiveness Awards mentor and a Cannes Creative Effectiveness master
The Effectiveness Partnership is working with Cannes Lions to provide the Creative Effectiveness Advisory Scheme. For further information, visit www.canneslions.com/creativeeffectiveness
Read Jon Steel on the dangers of social buzz at campaignlive.co.uk