Editorial: Ad effectiveness more crucial than ever before

Are the IPA Effectiveness Awards effective? As the 2009 gongs were dished out at the Hurlingham Club on Monday evening, the question is as apposite now as it was when the competition was launched almost three decades ago.

The awards were set up as a riposte to the widespread belief, particularly among clients, that it was impossible to prove advertising worked - which many thought amounted to a decision that it did not. Down the years, the debate about whether or not the awards have fulfilled their original intent continues unabated. After all, it is claimed, company chiefs who believe advertising works need no awards to convince them of the fact. Those who don't are unlikely to be swayed in their views, however compelling the case.

It could be argued that today's awards are more valuable in sustaining the industry's belief that what it does can make a real difference to clients' businesses rather than evangelising to a broader market that's already made up its mind.

And there's no doubt that the awards have bestowed a rich heritage of case histories, all of which add to the industry's collective ability to better meet the challenges that an ever more complex communication landscape presents.

This year, with the competition for the first time limited to campaigns with total spends of less than £2.5 million, there's a case for saying that agencies' ingenuity has been tested as never before. As Andy Nairn, the convenor of judges rightly points out (Feature, p22), the winners had to compete "with one hand tied behind their backs".

That may be no bad thing as firm evidence emerges that advertising is on the rebound. Unilever upped its adspend by 13 per cent in the three months to September; ITV's sales are up 4 per cent compared with the same time last year. Effectiveness will be a crucial requirement from cautious clients beginning to loosen the purse strings.

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