IPA rewards effective small agencies

Despite two London agencies winning the Grand Prix, the IPA's new biennial awards have recognised regional shops.

The Travelocity paper by Miles Calcraft Briginshaw Duffy and the Bakers Complete Dry Dog Food paper by Burkitt DDB were jointly given the Grand Prix at the first IPA Effectiveness Awards for small agencies held this week.

This year's ceremony saw a significant change to the rules. Until now, the IPA Effectiveness Awards have been staged every two years. This year and every other year from now on, an extra contest will be held, restricted to small- and medium-sized agencies with a gross income of less than £20 million. However, with two established London agencies taking the top award, has the scheme awarded the smaller shops it set out to recognise?

Tim Broadbent, the managing director of BrandCon and an IPA judge, points out that there is a spread of finalists from all over the UK (see IPA Awards supplement with this issue). He said: "BDH Manchester has a fantastic track record in the full IPA Awards, and most of the shortlisted agencies are regional."

Looking at the winning papers, no-one could accuse the IPA of dropping its standards for the new competition. In fact, part of the aim of the new format is to make the judging process twice as hard as the existing regional awards scheme, the Area Awards. And instead of a single round of judging, entrants are now subjected to two. Whereas with the Area Awards all the judges were clients, the panel now also includes advertising executives.

The judges were also briefed to assume a campaign was ineffective unless the case convinced them otherwise.

The awards aim to recognise results, so did the quality of entries reflect this when it came to proving a return on investment?

Broadbent explains: "The standard of the shortlisted entries was very high given the space constraint (2,000 words rather than the 4,000 words for the full awards). The good were very good indeed. However, some of the other entries did disappoint the judges, and it did seem some authors had not read previous winners, which is like a lawyer not knowing any case law. This baffles me.

"The awards demand as proof of an ad campaign's effectiveness, an increase in sales. This is not to do with price, or the product or the fact that the client's competitor has dropped out of the marketplace. It's such a shame authors do all the hard work of entering a paper without, apparently, finding out in advance what the judges would be looking for."

Nevertheless, the levels of entry indicate that the new awards are welcomed by regional agencies. Forty-eight agencies entered with client case histories ranging from Reckitt Benckiser to the Cumbria Tourist Board and from Travelocity.co.uk to the Bank of Ireland. The jury then shortlisted 17 agencies which comprised three agencies from Northern Ireland, five from Glasgow, four agencies from London and five from the regions. The event also saw an important move away from London, with the ceremony being held at Belfast City Hall on Wednesday night.

Les Binet, the European director of DDB Matrix and the convenor of judges, says: "The new awards have widened the franchise and prove that evaluation and effectiveness is for any agency. Whether you're above or below the line, big or small, no-one has an excuse not to write an IPA Effectiveness paper now."

It is the first time in the 26-year history of the Effectiveness Awards that the Grand Prix has been awarded to two papers. Richard Storey, the planning director at M&C Saatchi and the deputy convenor of judges, says that although MCBD and Burkitt DDB shared the award, they were honoured for contrasting reasons.

He explains: "The two Grands Prix were very different, one being a long-term story of brand management, the other being about creating an immediate short-term effect. This in itself reflects a key learning of the IPA competition generally - that there is no one single model for communications effectiveness."

The awards show that many regional agencies need to work at proving the effectiveness of their campaigns. That two London shops took top honours shows that this discipline is established in the South. The IPA's new scheme is well positioned to inspire regional shops into action.

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