Thursday, November 20

Effective Effies

 

What, if anything, is wrong with the Effies, and how can they be improved? Marketing and Media gave front page coverage to Remi Diligent’s views on their defects – and Michal Charvat’s equally forthright view that Remi’s prescriptions for change are not practical.

 

Both views have some merit, and I hope a constructive debate about the Effies can continue. However such a discussion has to start by acknowledging that the Effies are an international competition. Their format is quite strictly defined by the American organization, which runs it. Furthermore, as in football, national competitions lead winners into the EuroEffies. This competition is tougher and gives competitors valuable exposure to professional practice in other markets. This is not something to be thrown away, unless you have something that is clearly better.

 

It happens that there is something better. Most advertising professionals in the bigger markets agree that the British awards – the IPA Effectiveness Awards – are better; they are far more rigorous in expecting clear evidence of a link between advertising and improved business results. I know of what I speak because I have won such an award; but this was only possible because I worked at BMP, the home of account planning; and the planners made sure that my entry was worthy of the agency’s reputation. I can honestly say that writing the paper was far more difficult than were my final exams at University.

 

So I know that the Effies are nowhere near as tough. To try and explain why, let’s look at the Gold Effie for Staropramen which MaM also featured. It tells us that various measurable consumer attributes improved. It asserts that this was thanks to the campaign. It probably was, but for an IPA award, you would have to prove it was the campaign alone, and describe exactly how the campaign achieved that. However – and this is where Remi Diligent comes in – improving attributes are not the same as improving profits. The entry asserts that the campaign “undoubtedly helped achieve great sales results” Record sales for 2013, market share increase of 5%, market share at highest level since 2008. Sounds wonderful, doesn’t it, but it would not begin to be enough for an IPA paper. There it would be necessary to consider all the other possible reasons for these results and be able to conclusively show that it was indeed the advertising that caused the results. Think about a really serious clinical trial, and you get an idea of what is expected in an IPA paper. Among the issues that might be examined in this case would be other types of marketing activity in the same time period (price offers for example) of both Staropramen and competitors; possible distribution changes, such as the opening of several Potrefena Husa pubs. And then once other factors are ruled out, it is necessary to show a Return on Investment (ROI) Of course this means that the contribution to profit was much higher than the cost of the campaign. But to do that, it is necessary to calculate what the sales figures would have been if the campaign had not run.

 

Now I do not suggest the award to Staropramen was undeserved. Currently it is impossible to imagine that any agency in the Czech Republic has the resources to meet the IPA standards, and we should not forget one reason for this; these resources cost money. British clients pay for these resources, not primarily to win an award, but to prove to shareholders that the marketing budget delivers an ROI. Czech based clients, in my experience, do not. Too many of them instead hold tenders for a new agency when sales results appear not to be “satisfactory”. (For a glimpse of the basic standards of evaluation carried out in the UK, please use the links below to download two IPA/ISBA guides)

 

If we now return to Remi Diligent’s proposals we can see that he wants to jump straight from an advertising budget to company profitability figures, and assume a direct correlation. This is erroneous. Even if the company had only one brand there are so many business factors acting as barriers between an ad campaign and profit figures, that it would take an entire blogpost just to describe them.

 

And yet his goal is praiseworthy. If a company is not meeting profit targets, the marketing director feels under great pressure if all he can prove is that customers regard his brand as “innovative”. The overall objective of the IPA awards has always been to encourage clients to advertise, by proving that advertising is an investment which brings business results.

 

It would definitely be worthwhile debating whether and how the Czech Effies could be made more “rigorous”. This is where the debate should start, and I will throw in a few thoughts, which may or may not be feasible:

 

- Reduce the number of entries from any one agency. Quality, not quantity.

 

- Judges should be mainly top marketing and market research people and data analysts

 

- Make it clear that prizes go to those who can prove beyond reasonable doubt that the campaign was the main influence on claimed business results

 

- Hold an Effectiveness seminar/tutorial run by experts in the field from the UK

 

And to end let us note that final responsibility for measuring effectiveness lies not with the agencies but with the clients. The papers below describe how econometric modeling is extensively used in the UK to help factor out other effects on sales. This is expensive and requires time. How many clients here have invested in it? Sooner or later, your shareholders are going to require evidence either that your advertising is working – or that yet another tender is actually needed.

 

The IPA guide to Evaluation

 

The IPA guide to Measuring marketing payback

Also link here to a summary of the IPA 2014 Grand Prix winner - also for a beer! We will try to bring you the full paper soon

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