Well-executed purposeful ads are ‘incredibly effective’, IPA research shows

Companies should not dismiss purposeful ads on the basis of those that do not perform well, warns expert.

Purposeful advertising: drives effectiveness when executed well
Purposeful advertising: drives effectiveness when executed well

The “considerable benefits” for companies making successful purposeful ads mean “we shouldn’t dismiss brand purpose out of hand” on the basis of others that do not perform so well, according to effectiveness expert Peter Field.

Purposeful ads that are executed well are more effective than ads that do not show a company is committed to wider social benefits, according to the research, which was commissioned by the Institute of Practitioners in Advertising.

Successful purposeful ads also scored more highly both when looking at how far they improve market share and the extent to which they build brands in the long term, the study found.

Meanwhile, less successful purposeful ads, which account for almost half of purposeful ads in the study, have the opposite result. They scored far lower than campaigns with no wider social message.

The study assessed 380 ads over the same period, including 47 with a purposeful message and 333 that did not include such a message.

The ads were scored across six business metrics: sales, market share, new customer acquisition, customer loyalty, pricing power and profit.

A total of 57% of the purposeful ads performed strongly, which meant they achieved at least one very large improvement among the six metrics.

When looking at only such well-performing purposeful ads in comparison with ads that contain no wider social message, the former scored higher (2.1) on overall effectiveness, which takes into account all six metrics, than the latter (1.6).

Similarly, 41% of well-performing purposeful ads created a “very large” market share growth, compared with just 26% for non-purposeful ads.

An assessment of broader brand effects, such as trust in the brand and its fame, also revealed successful purposeful ads scored far higher (3.0) than those without a wider social message (1.9).

However, across all purposeful ads, not just those that were successful, the average number of “very large” improvements across one of the six key metrics was just 1.1, while for non-purposeful campaigns it was higher, at 1.6.

By focusing on key features of successful purpose-driven campaigns, more brands will see improvements, Field said, who carried out the research using data from the IPA’s Effectiveness Awards.

He said: “When brand purpose is done well, it can be incredibly effective, but to be good there are particular learnings to observe.”

This includes: working closely with distributors aligned to purpose, to develop bespoke in-store presence; ensuring the purpose and product credentials match up; and aligning the message to popular issues in the target market.

He added: “What these findings show is that we shouldn’t dismiss brand purpose out of hand.

“As we see here, there can be considerable benefits for companies in deploying brand purpose campaigns – both for engaging their own employees, stakeholders and investors, as well as for driving customer sales. When it is done well, when it is genuine and credible, brand purpose can be very powerful."

The findings come ahead of a presentation at the IPA’s EffWorks Global 2021 conference.

Janet Hull, IPA director of marketing strategy and executive director of IPA EffWorks, said: “Even though brand purpose is a relatively new science, there is already evidence coming from the IPA Databank of the range of its appeal to different stakeholders. Given growing industry interest in brand purpose strategies, we can expect to see many more cases in the 2022 IPA Effectiveness Awards to take our learning forward.”

The study defined purposeful advertising as "a commitment articulated by a commercial brand or its parent company to goals other than improved profits or products, involving contribution towards one or more positive social impacts in the fields of health, the environment, human development, sustainable business practices, or other similar areas".

Analysis of 150 global brands and their customer relationships by marketing agency Iris has found that brands putting sustainability at the forefront of their proposition outperform their competitors.

At a recent Campaign event, brand leaders spoke of sacrificing profits to ensure their companies are more sustainable.


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