The IPA's 20th anniversary of its Advertising Effectiveness Awards is marked by fewer UK entries than ever. Some agencies talk of boycotting the event: that it simply involves too much work to submit a case study.
Such talk is churlish. How can proving the efficacy of your agency's work be so difficult? Surely, most self-respecting clients demand a written demonstration of how their multimillion-pound advertising budgets have improved the profile of their product, irrespective of any awards scheme?
One significant barrier to entry is that the standard of the awards has risen. Critics condemn them for being too academic and esoteric. You're unlikely to get praise for the kind of solid FMCG advertising that constitutes the backbone of the advertising landscape, they say.
But perhaps more significant is that clients are not driving entries. Turnover of marketing staff is rapid and every good IPA paper involves going back into a brand's history. Most marketers would prefer to look at their own career as it goes forward, rather than demonstrate the brilliance of their predecessor. In other cases, marketers object because they don't want the secret details of their brand strategy to be laid open to scrutiny by the general public.
However, any reluctance to enter seems very short-sighted. No self-respecting agency should ignore the awards scheme as a potentially key component to its new-business strategy. Being able to prove factually that your agency's work led to a client company's sales fillip is a sound means of getting on to shortlists.
There are also benefits for agency staff. All those who get involved in preparing an IPA case study learn to evaluate the advertising process. The case studies, in turn, are read by other industry workers, who can benefit from the demonstrated wisdom.
Most importantly of all, it is vital to support any scheme that demonstrates the efficacy of advertising to the business community. It is a difficult process to measure, but an important one.
With more of the big FMCG clients instituting performance-related pay, it seems like a very good idea to understand exactly what makes a brand perform and by how much. Preparing and reading IPA case studies does just that.