Laurence Green
Laurence Green
A view from Laurence Green

Tortoise beats hare, again

An industry that was once famously described as 'a dog that barks at every passing car', must yet again face some inconvenient truths

The format may have been unfamiliar at Monday evening’s virtual IPA Awards, but the big winners certainly weren’t. Tesco, John Lewis, Audi and Guinness monopolised the golds, each one celebrating the returns on long-running campaigns that are as familiar to us as punters as they are to us as advertising professionals.

"Every little helps" was first coined by Lowe’s Paul Weinberger 30 years ago as an operating principle for the Tesco business. "Vorsprung durch technik" was jotted down by John Hegarty on a German factory tour a decade or so earlier. "Never knowingly undersold" may be about to be retired but has put in quite a shift for John Lewis since 1925. Even "Made of more" – a relative newbie by comparison – is about to enter its second decade of trading.

Sceptics suggest the kind of work that keeps winning at the IPA Awards reveals a methodological bias, or perhaps even unconscious bias among the judges towards work that they already know, rather than meet for the first time in a 4,000-word written submission – familiarity breeding favourability.

But, as one of the lucky few to have convened the Awards, rather than just won at them, I’ve seen first-hand how objectively (and transparently) the scoring works, how painstakingly papers are sorted across three (yes, three) rounds of judging, how determined each juror is to weigh each paper rather than just vote. So I reach the unfashionable conclusion that the brands in question won (again) because the returns they claim are not just high in absolute terms but are most persuasively proven to have accrued from advertising investment.

And so an industry that was once famously described as “a dog that barks at every passing car”, must yet again face some inconvenient truths. That broadcast media are your friend, not just to drive reach but because they create the common meaning that is the very essence of branding. That campaigns work harder than one-off executions because we build on pre-existing memory structures rather than building new ones from scratch, the “magic of compound interest” as Warren Buffett might put it. And – whisper it quietly – that great endlines don’t just work for our audience but bring discipline to our work also.

Every little helps. Vorsprung durch technik. Never knowingly undersold. Made of more. Three words long. Decades of value.

Laurence Green is executive partner at MullenLowe London