What Makes Campaigns Effective? The Effectiveness Code lifts the lid on the hallmarks of success, on behalf of Cannes Lions and WARC.?
Advertising effectiveness is a tricky topic - the problems inherent in trying to figure out the effectiveness of the advertising activity that brands undertake are well known. Understanding what constitutes effectiveness is arguably the holy grail of the advertising business. Famously, Henry Ford was quoted as saying: ‘Half the money I spend on advertising is wasted – the trouble is, I don’t know which half’. A heartfelt admission and he almost certainly wasn’t the first brand owner to have faced this dilemma.
And the reality is that measuring the effectiveness of campaigns is a somewhat subjective activity. Just for starters, are we measuring effectiveness or efficiency? And what’s the difference? How do we unpick the effects of an effective creative from an effective media schedule? Are they both, in fact, intrinsically co-dependent?
The IPA has led the way in understanding advertising effectiveness and continue to encourage their agencies to prioritise proving the effectiveness of their campaigns. The work carried out by Les Binet and Peter Field in 2013 (The Long and Short of It – Balancing Short and Long-Term Marketing Strategies) to understand the trends and key themes within the winning papers in the IPA Effectiveness Awards has been crucial to helping brands navigate the true meaning of effectiveness in a world which increasingly prioritises efficiency, often at the expense of effectiveness.
But the whole business of measuring advertising effectiveness has lacked a universally agreed framework or a ‘shared language’. And without these universal definitions, it is easy to create a range of effectiveness measures which are not uniform and are therefore unable to be benchmarked against each other.
But the development and unveiling of The Effectiveness Code at the virtual Cannes Lions Effectiveness event at the end of June 2020 may have been the start of changing the way that we all able to assess effectiveness.
This new framework was developed by Peter Field and James Hurman after studying 4,863 effectiveness award entrants and winners submitted in the period from 2011 and 2019 (from the IPA Databank, the Cannes Creative Effectiveness Lions database and WARC) to try and understand the underlying markers of effectiveness.
One of the outputs from this analysis is The Creative Effectiveness Ladder. The Ladder identifies the six main types of effects that creative marketing produces, setting them in a hierarchy of levels from least to most commercially impactful. They are:
- Influential idea
- Behaviour breakthrough
- Sales spike
- Brand builder
- Commercial triumph
- Enduring icon
By assessing which level of creative effectiveness their work has achieved, practitioners can assess the effectiveness of their work and, crucially, identify the further rungs on the ladder that can be achieved to eventually reach the goal of ‘Enduring Icon’. In effect, this creates a useful framework to help agencies and advertisers to strive for better.
Whilst analysing the case studies which made up the core of their analysis, the authors also noticed that the campaigns which were the most effective and were propelling the campaigns further up the Effectiveness Ladder all seemed to have some common features, which Field and Hurman have called ‘Creative Commitment’. Creative Commitment is a composite measure of three specific elements of campaigns, applied to a creative campaign or initiative.? They identified these metrics because their analysis revealed that high Creative Commitment scores correlate very tightly with effectiveness –? as Creative Commitment increases, so does effectiveness.
So what is Creative Commitment? It is a combination of three specific campaign levers:
- Media spend
- Campaign duration
- Breadth of media channels used
The analysis of the effectiveness case studies strongly indicated that campaigns which were most effective shared these characteristics: high levels of spend; a long period of campaign duration; a wider breadth of media channels utilised within the campaign.
The first of these levels may not come as too much of a surprise – bigger media spends almost inevitably lead to wider campaign recognition and fame. The second lever, campaign duration, is a concept which is proving to be particularly challenging – especially as the average marketing director spends less than two years in post and frequently sees their long-term campaigns scrapped by the new approach of their successor. This commitment to a campaign over a prolonged period of time is a hallmark of the majority of the most memorable and effective campaigns in the effectiveness databank. And brands have to occupy a relevant, stable and consistent position in the minds of their consumers, and would-be consumers, to achieve that holy grail for brands – being admitted into the part of the brain which allows consumers to make brand selections with System 1 thinking (i.e. brand selection becomes almost automatic and doesn’t require any specific thought or brand comparison). It is only through consistent messaging delivered through long-term campaigns, that this is achieved.
And the third lever, breadth of media channels used, works on a number of levels. Using a number of media channels almost inevitably means that you are reaching a wide audience (which Peter Field and Les Binet proved in their 2013 book The Long and Short of It, is essential for effective and profitable advertising). It also means that campaigns can stimulate a range of senses through a wider use of media channels, and thereby cement the key campaign message. ?
Hearst also has evidence that campaigns which utilise 2 or more platforms outperform campaigns on just one platform across a range of metrics, including consideration, favourability and likelihood to purchase. This is also echoed in a recent paper by Mark Ritson, brand consultant and former Marketing Professor. In it, he shared an analysis, by Analytic Partners, which looked at ROI levels across of a number of campaigns and a range of platform multiples. Campaigns which utilised 2 platforms on average produced 19% higher ROI than campaigns on one platform, and campaigns using 5 platforms averaged ROI levels which were 35% higher on average.
Creativity, they noted, is a fourth impactful lever – as indicated by the fact that creatively-awarded campaigns are much more effective overall.
“The message here is not that creative-award-worthy work is automatically effective. Rather that, if we have a well-planned and insightful strategy, we can magnify and supercharge the effectiveness of that strategic thinking with work that has creative-award-winning qualities,” Hurman said.
As part of their analysis, Field and Hurman also looked at the number of campaigns which displayed the three elements of Creative Commitment – and found that this number had significantly reduced over the last five years. According to their theory, this means that the effectiveness of campaigns is reducing steadily as well.
As an industry, we are now able to optimise campaigns in new and highly efficient ways – reaching groups of consumers targeted using highly sensitive data – to ensure that we minimise wasting our budgets on targets who are less likely to take any action or convert to our brand. But as an industry, we need to be careful to not confuse efficiency (of targeting) with effectiveness (of our overall advertising).
According to Binet and Field in ‘The Long and Short of It’, we should be looking to deploy approximately 40% of our advertising budgets amongst channels which enable our consumers to take action. But 60% of budgets should be deployed in environments which target more widely (expanding the pool of recipients of our advertising messages), and within media which work to build a brand by providing broadcast exposure or exposure within a media brand or environment which brings its own brand identity or purpose to the communications party.
The creation of the Creative Effectiveness Ladder and the identification of the key factors which lead to Creative Commitment (and therefore effective campaigns which drive profit to brands’ bottom lines) are welcome additions to the world of advertising effectiveness. They can help us to plot firmer paths for our communications, based on the proven signposts and markers of effectiveness. In a nutshell, we need to develop the right marketing strategies for our brands, stick with them and amplify them widely (if they are proven to be communicating their messages clearly). Sounds so easy, doesn’t it – but let’s hope that this welcome addition to the world of effectiveness analysis gives us more tools to deliver better and more effective work.