The gold winners for the European Effectiveness Awards were announced on Wednesday night at the lavish gala bash in Brussels. There were more than 50 entries across European agencies, from which the judges decided that the TBWA\G1 entry for Nissan and Grey Copenhagen's submission for Coca-Cola deserved the coveted gold award. There were also four silvers and eight bronzes handed out on the night.
The European Association of Communications Agencies has been hosting the European Effectiveness Awards (aka Euro Effies) since 1996. The competition is open to entries from any country but, to qualify for entry, the campaign has to have run in at least two European countries. The awards are promoted as the "gold standard" in European effectiveness.
The Euro Effies have two rounds of judging; the first round, conducted online, consists of 24 jurors from across Europe. This year the UK representation included Sophie Maunder-Allan of VCCP, Jo Manser from OMD and Bobby Hui. They managed to whittle down the 50-odd submissions to a shortlist of 35 entries.
Judging then passed to the second-round jury, which comprised European client and agency practitioners, who spent a day in Brussels debating the merits of the shortlisted papers. This year's panel included Marco Rimini from MindShare, Anne-Marie Hoyle of Mediaedge:cia and David Pugh-Jones from Microsoft. In all, 14 finalists were deemed good enough to win a Euro Effie award.
Unlike the IPA Effectiveness Awards, which are judged purely on the merits of the proof of effectiveness in the submission, the Euro Effies award up to 20 per cent of the marks towards the creative work, which is shown to the second-round jurors after they have marked the paper. This is a legacy of their being linked to the American Effies programme.
Many in London have debated on the merits of an "effectiveness" award that allocates marks to creative work - essentially a subjective as opposed to an objective judgment. Nevertheless, the Euro Effies are regarded as a fine precursor to submitting entries for the much more rigorous and demanding IPA Effectiveness Awards. Indeed, there is a history of Euro Effie winners that go on to become IPA Effectiveness successes.
Being an awards scheme that spans many European countries does have its limitations, however.
Many of our Eastern European agency partners just do not have the luxury of having the same level or quality of research and data that we enjoy in the UK. Nor do they have the benefit of a longstanding culture of account planning, so the Euro Effies simply cannot demand the same level of rigour as the IPA's competition does. So when judging these papers, one has to take such factors into account.
Nevertheless, over the past few years, the EACA has been consulting with the London planning community to tighten up the awards structure and raise the bar in terms of quality. There is now much more focus on the objectives being met, and importantly, a distinction being made between business, marketing and communications objectives.
There is also increasing rigour in the judging process - having the privilege of being on the jury for several years allows one to see the common mistakes that some jurors make when assessing cases. The classic one being to assess your perception of reality and not what has been presented before you.
Having said that, the past few years have seen the quality of entries increase substantially, and this year was no exception. Papers were entered from a wide variety of business sectors by agencies from London to Romania.
The second-round jury was split into two groups, who had the job of assessing half of the cases each. Both groups were presided over by the chair of the jury, Dr Olaf Gottgens, the vice-president of brand communications at Mercedes-Benz Passenger Cars. After both sets of jurors had chosen their winners, everyone regrouped for a final round of what could be diplomatically described as a very lively, "open" debate over the chosen winners.
This year's gold-winning entries showed again that the Euro Effies can produce quality cases that could eventually be serious contenders in the IPA's very own competition. Unlike the latter's free structure that tends to allow for an engaging story to be written, the Euro Effies have a more rigid structure, which requires an answer to be put into each particular topic "box". Unfortunately, this can lead to "puzzle pieces" that do not link well together, creating a very unengaging read. However, this was not the case with the gold-winning entries this year: both told an engaging tale of communication success, and each tried to demonstrate beyond doubt that it could only have been the marketing activity that led to the brand's commercial success.
TBWA's multi-country case for Nissan is a story of how an idea generated business momentum for a small player in a category that was dominated by iconic brands. Nissan planned to launch a car, called the Qashqai, into a sector where it had little presence. The case clearly explained the huge barriers to entry and the business challenges that lay ahead. It gave clearly stated business objectives, namely to help sell 93,000 cars across European markets within one year of launch, and to do this by creating a unique positioning in the marketplace to attract a younger target audience.
The paper then went on to articulate the well-thought-out media strategy, which included pre-launch digital activity that helped seed the viral and grow it organically via 2,000 sites across Europe. This eventually led into a full-blown multimedia campaign.
The key to any good effectiveness case is in the proof of results. Great effectiveness papers put a spotlight on every piece of available information that can be used to help prove that it was the advertising and marketing communications that caused the positive effect, and discount any possible alternative explanations, just like any good barrister would do in court. Classically, the case should show what happened and then, crucially, why it happened.
In Nissan's case, it demonstrated success in as many different ways as possible: the over-shooting of the business target, the increase in the waiting list for a car, the extension to factory capacity, and so on.
The author/s then linked the business results to the campaign; thanks to the success of the digital and viral strategy, the pre-launch movies were seen nearly 14 million times around the world, and by more than six million of the target audience. There was clarity in how it showed the ad and brand tracking numbers increasing in line with the communications activity (awareness of the car rose to 80 per cent within three weeks of the campaign launch).
There was also a successful event programme, which was attended by more than 80,000 drivers across European markets and, since the launch of the campaign, 93 per cent of visitors to Nissan dealerships said they came to see the Qashqai.
Similarly, the gold-winning paper from Grey Copenhagen described the launch of Cola-Cola Zero in Northern Europe into a "light" category which was fiercely fought over between Pepsi Max and Coca-Cola Light. The paper went on to show how Coke Zero won back the male target of 18- to 29-year-olds who saw the "light" brand as being too feminine for them.
Here, too, the objectives were clear and precise. The business objective was to hit 12.6 million cases sold within the German market within a year of launch and gain a 15 per cent share of the "light" market within the same period. Similar objectives were set for other European countries.
The paper then went on to describe the phased media deployment and the creative strategy. The proof-of-results section was well structured, clearly showing the doubling of sales and share objectives within the given target period, and linked the brand's success to the campaign via tracking and intermediate measures. Having done that, the paper discounted all other possible factors that could have led to the brand's success.
The Euro Effies may never sit on the same lofty pedestal as that of the IPA Effectiveness Awards. But it does serve the same important purpose, namely to champion the commercial value our industry creates and to showcase this contribution within the European Union.
Euronews, which sponsors the Euro Effies, helped to build the reputation of the scheme by providing significant coverage of the awards ceremony as well as the winning cases for several weeks after the event.
Crucially, European clients and media respect the Euro Effies. In any given year, the high turnout of senior European clients as judges and at the awards ceremony is always impressive. In a world where effectiveness and accountability is now demanded by many clients and the financial markets, we need all the help we can get to stop undermining the value of our strategic and creative product. Including the Euro Effies on our radar can only help further our own cause.