Wise Words from Convenor DT | 2019 Effies in association with TVNZ

Posted 18 June 2019.

​Long-term thinking and great clients

​I’ve heard and read many opinions about how advertising works. There’s little lasting consensus.

Paul Feldwick (Effie international judge 2014) is an advertising historian. He points out that our definition of effectiveness, and therefore how it’s achieved, never stops evolving. It’s tempting to believe that we’ve recently become smarter, analysed the data and figured it all out. That delusion’s been reached many times for over 100 years.

Popular writers drive the trends, often using select disruptive examples. Unlike science communities; with multi-source, evidence-based, peer-reviewed theories that evolve very slowly, our industry likes a good quick revolution.

Behavioural economics, clearly more than a trend, was only recently ‘discovered’ by advertising. Books like ‘Nudge’ (2008) drove popularity. But the novelty’s already wearing off from a few years ago, when B.E. principles featured in every second Effie paper.

‘How Brands Grow’, by Byron Sharp (2010), could have changed everything. But not everyone read it. And despite its solid evidence-based advice, it was soon challenged. The currently very popular Mark Ritson (our industry also likes a spade being called a fucking spade) rejects Sharp’s belief that advertising should prioritise reaching the masses rather than positioning and targeting.

Then there’s the various analyses of effectiveness data by Field and Binet. The correlation between creativity and effectiveness was unsurprising, but their proof was welcome. In an important follow-up a few years later, another vital ingredient was emphasised; media weight. In the pursuit of creativity and targeting, Reach had suffered, and overall effectiveness fallen.

Field and Binet’s greatest contribution is their reminder of the power of long-term thinking and brand-building. They present this as the approach that most marketers should take, most of the time. Unlike many evangelists, their thinking is balanced, and non-revolutionary. It’s one philosophy we must never tire of.

There will probably never be any one agreed universal school of thought on advertising effectiveness. This keeps advertising interesting, challenging, and rewarding. Yet, theories and philosophies aside, there is one vital factor that’s common to every great campaign, and always has been.

We need great clients.

To create exceptionally effective work, marketers have to be smart, strategically consistent, focused, bold and brave. It’s clients, not agencies, taking the risks we admire in outstanding campaigns.

Much of Effie remains unchanged from 2018. Judging will favour campaigns that prove advertising effects over longer periods, and measures such as brand-building that suggest effects will continue.

But we are making one significant change for 2019 and beyond. Clients behind exceptional work will now get as much time in the spotlight as their agencies. Individual marketers and their contributions will be recognised and celebrated more than ever before. For the sake of advertising excellence, an Effie must be a highly regarded professional benchmark for both agencies and marketers.