Andy Pierce, Core’s group strategy director writes about the importance of advertising effectiveness.
Advertising and marketing is at an important crossroads, where we need to focus more on improving our professional expertise. We get less training than ever, and we exclusively learn as we go. The high turnover rates, recessionary hiring freezes, and big-tech brain drain have made that learning all the more difficult. Where medical and legal practitioners cite long histories of cases and precedent, we deem obsolete cases and papers older than the last iPhone.
Add this to an industry increasingly divided around best practice, and it is no wonder that advertising is in the midst of an effectiveness crisis. Not because it doesn’t work, but because we’ve forgotten how it works, and how to prove it works.
We could be diagnosed as being in a dark age. I mean that in the historical sense; a period of history where knowledge is lost. As an industry we used to be better at this. Ironically in simpler times, we used to have a better understanding of how to build brands and how to make them appealing.
Between then and now our role seems to have changed. Now we make ads more than build brands. We can see it in how the meaning of the word “campaign” has changed. In the past, campaigns referred to a platform or positioning, which the brand could campaign on, by dramatizing in an entertaining way. Snickers, Specsavers, the Economist are great examples. They are enduringly campaignable, and increasingly effective.
Now “campaign” seems to simply mean the suite of multi-format ads which accompany the latest short-term promo.
The loss of the term “campaign” says a lot. The business has become far more atomised. As a result, we’ve become much more interested in the ads and much less interested in brands and in building the enduring platform’s they can campaign on.
This has happened in two ways. First, we have misused creativity, in part through an obsession with Cannes. Peter Field said in 2013 that creatively awarded campaigns were twelve times more effective than non-awarded ones. Since then, that ratio has dropped right back to 1:1.
Globally, has that 12 to 1 stat lead us slightly astray? Cannes positions itself as a Festival of Creativity, not of advertising, marketing, or effectiveness. They are not interchangeable, but they must be connected.
Worryingly, creativity and effectiveness are sometimes portrayed as opposites; mutually exclusive ways of doing things. That if a campaign is one, it can’t be the other. In fact, the opposite is true. They have to exist together, and we need a culture which marries them.
The second reason for this evolution of the industry thinking is the tech/investor culture’s hold on marketing. This has been unhelpful. It is an incredibly short-term culture. Language like “disruption” and “innovation” sound sexy, but when misused they are the opposite of consistency campaigning. They distract from the business of building brands. They encourage us to be “ad” focused, not “brand” focused.
What they deliver is also short term. They promised measurability and results, but what they really offer is a mindboggling volume of information, much of which is distracting in the business of building brands. And that information which is valuable is also almost exclusively short term.
So, what’s the treatment?
Effectiveness is the focusing of creativity to de-risk marketing investment. It needs to be pointed at solving the right problems. It needs to get and hold people’s attention; it needs to live in the memory. Even more importantly, it needs to make sure that the brand, not the execution, is what is ultimately most memorable.
The old cliche asks is advertising an art or science? It is both, but more importantly it is a culture. A culture we must embrace of accountability, of measurement, and of learning from results and improving. Education is a central part of that culture.
The good news is that though the last 50 years of advertising, we are in fact very well practiced in this, and we can be again.
In 2022, Core has launched a new education program, Fundamentals of Advertising & Marketing Effectiveness, or FAME. It’s an 8-module course which looks at the main themes, lessons, and techniques put forward by a wide range of different commentators like Byron Sharp, Orlando Wood, Paul Feldwick, Prof Karen Nelson Field, Robert Heath, Binet & Field, and many others. The course attempts to summarise and package them up in a way which can be easily applied. We encourage our 330 people at Core to engage with this education programme as effectiveness is critical to our culture and also our relationships with our clients. Indeed, the course is also available on request to any of our clients marketing teams as well.
We will ensure that effectiveness remains a central focus of everything we do, and we thank IAPI for leading on the Effie programme now in place in our market.
Andy Pierce is group strategy director, Core.