It's time to give rigour the razzle-dazzle it deserves
A view from Chris Hirst

It's time to give rigour the razzle-dazzle it deserves

The two major awards ceremonies over the past ten days - the Campaign Bigs and the Effies - have sought to showcase and celebrate the best of creativity and advertising effectiveness respectively.

Real credit is due to the winners in both.

It’s right that the industry comes together to honour those campaigns and agencies that excel at either creativity or effectiveness.

Equally, with autumnal thoughts of another year drawing to a close, such evenings, where the industry gives itself a collective pat on the back, are as welcome as those sunny days in the dog days of June on the Côte d’Azur – even if the wine is noticeably less chilled and the linen largely absent.

Without wishing to state the blindingly obvious, the demonstration of a commitment to excellence in creativity and effectiveness is crucial if the industry is to show its worth beyond Grosvenor House’s Great Room or the halls of the Palais. Yet my provocation would be that we tend to celebrate the former at the expense of the latter.

It’s an irrefutable – although often unspoken – fact that all commercial comms should have effectiveness at their heart. After all, it’s what our clients pay us to do. But the reality is that, as an industry, we talk about it way too infrequently.  

Witness, for example, the Cannes Creative Effectiveness awards. While the organisers were right to (belatedly) introduce a category that honours effectiveness, it seems odd that only campaigns that have previously won creative Lions are eligible to enter. It’s also revealing that effectiveness is only celebrated in one of the many categories that Cannes now chooses to calibrate.

That is not to say that creativity and effectiveness are mutually exclusive – of course they’re not – but, rather, it implies that the former is more important than the latter. For an industry that needs to continually prove its worth in the boardroom, it’s an odd and mixed message to send out.

We need to be as – if not more – proud of showing, and honouring, the contribution that we make to our clients’ businesses for their boardrooms to take us seriously. 

We need to produce as many case studies as possible that show how advertising presents a return on marketing investment. We need to shout as loudly about how we have had a positive effect on a company’s bottom line as we do when we pick up a gong for creativity. 

And we need as many agencies that find themselves captivated by such gongs to feel equally invigorated in demonstrating, and being rewarded for, effective work. With the IPA awards open for entries this month, it is in the interests of the whole industry that agencies embrace the rigour of effectiveness as the norm rather than a two-yearly chore. 

Chris Hirst is the chair of the IPA’s Value of Creativity Group and the European chief executive of Havas Creative Group