Buchanan: chief executive  at Publicis
Buchanan: chief executive at Publicis
A view from Karen Buchanan

IPA ADAPT: Publicis CEO Karen Buchanan on the need to reframe effectiveness

Ahead of next week's Performance Adaptathon featuring the highly-respected Peter Field, Karen Buchanan, chief executive at Publicis London ponders the debate around effectiveness.

It's that time of year when the judges of the IPA effectiveness awards get together to discuss and debate entries, and start the process of evaluating the winners, in preparation for the short list announcement in September, and awards night in November. So it's a tense time for many of the strategists in the industry who have submitted papers.

There is more we can do to bridge the gap between the detailed knowledge of the strategy community and the more topline dialogue between finance and procurement

As Chairman of the Value of Creativity Group, I am also surrounded by strategists who care passionately about the awards, and the cases that emerge from the process. Together we look for new evidence, new learning, and new angles to demonstrate the value of advertising, in all its many and diverse forms, and how it delivers a business return on marketing investment.

So it was interesting, when I sat in a joint ISBA/IPA workshop with agency finance directors and CEOs, and client procurement and marketing officers, in preparation for the fourth strand of IPA President Ian Priest's ADAPT agenda, focused on P for Performance, to think about how the awards could be used in these discussions.

Most strategists in agencies are far removed from conversations with clients about remuneration. Most finance directors in agencies, and procurement officers in client companies, talk a lot about remuneration but are far removed from conversations about effectiveness.

The key learnings from the effectiveness awards, so ably summarised in chapters to the Advertising Works series, and the Databank tomes of Peter Field, Les Binet and others, already provide an evidence base for client/agency negotiation. 

They demonstrate the value of long-term relationships; provide frameworks for thinking about KPIs; help set expectations of realistic targets and time frames for achieving them. They debate measurement strategies and also show how, using econometrics, it is possible to separate and evaluate the contribution of different elements of the communications mix to overall performance.

It occurred to me that we were missing a trick by not broadening the debate about effectiveness to make it as relevant to finance directors, and procurement officers, as it was to strategists.

That’s why I’m particularly pleased that effectiveness will be at the heart of the debate about remuneration at the Performance Adaptathon on the 8th July; with Peter Field delivering one of the keynotes and Richard Morris from Vizeum participating in one of three AdaptLabs. With an audience of finance directors, procurement and marketing officers, and CEOs. It’s a good start.

Going forward, I think there is more we can do to bridge the gap between the detailed knowledge of the strategy community and the more topline dialogue between finance and procurement. The awards currently fall short of discussing the quality of the client/agency relationship. This would be easy to remedy. It would also be easy to use learning from the effectiveness awards to provide context for hard-nosed business conversations.

A first step in this direction is a new draft charter for win-win performance between clients and agencies. It will be revealed and debated on 8th July, and become more widely distributed and used after the event. So, if you want to be part of the debate, and help set the wider industry agenda, make sure to be there.

Get involved: Join us for the Performance Adaptathon on 8th July 2014.