IPA Effectiveness Awards 2007: An advertisement for our industry

Ours is an inspiring industry that worships creativity at the highest altar.

However, agencies traditionally delegate effectiveness to the fastidious minds within their ranks, rather than their "big thinkers".

This year's Awards highlight how antiquated this division of priorities is. The winners demonstrate and champion the value of big thinking in deploying budgets to change behaviour and add value. They reallocate the glory.

One of the aims of the "limited" competition is to give smaller organisations the chance to shine, by excluding those agencies supposedly awash with skills and resources. This effectively opens up the field to campaigns with limited budgets, local agendas and "under the radar" approaches. And it is gratifying to see many of these excel in this year's competition.

If there was a "leaning" in the judging, it was towards ingenuity and hard won returns, rather than miraculous scales of return achieved via sheer clout. A return on marketing investment (ROMI) of £1.80 per £1 spent, for example, achieved with ingenuity, evaluated with care, and presented with modesty, drew higher plaudits than a much trumpeted 26-fold return that was made to look easy.

Public service campaigns fared particularly well this year. This reflects the clever thinking they put into engaging difficult audiences on awkward topics, rather than any appeal to impassionate jurors' heartstrings. In these cases, smallness of budget, rather than being an impediment, appeared to have been a spur for taking more innovative approaches.

Not that small budget cases had it all their way. Some £40,000 TV campaigns slugged it out against multimillion-pound direct mail pushes and major blue-chip brand-building drives. In the end, all camps were represented among the top honours. In the process, the presumption that "big budgets equal TV and small budgets do not" was thoroughly discredited, as was the assumption that "an integrated approach" equates to deploying an idea across several different channels.

Two anecdotes from the judging room reinforce the respect these Awards command. One juror, questioning a paper's quality of proof, asked: "Would you send a man to prison on the strength of this evidence?" I wonder how many of us would ordinarily see our work on a par with that of the judiciary!

But perhaps the most telling feedback was how the papers reaffirmed the power of the tools at our disposal. One senior client judge spoke eloquently of the inspiration he drew from seeing what can be achieved with limited means and unlimited creative thinking.

If that isn't a fitting advertisement for our industry, I don't know what is.