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Opinion: Creating a Culture of Effectiveness

Core picks up one of its eight Effies (l-r) Jonny Boyle, Michael Clancy, Andy Pierce, Aidan Greene, Sandra Alvarez, Jessica King and Gemma Gilmore.

Fresh from their success at last week’s Effie Ireland Awards, where Core picked up eight awards, including three golds, strategy directors Shane Doyle & Andy Pierce outline how the agency group has worked hard to foster a culture of effectiveness across the business.

Core’s success at the 2023 Effie Awards Ireland comes on the back of a longer journey to put effectiveness at the heart of our business. There has been some cul de sacs along the way, but winning eight Effie Awards at this year’s ceremony, allowed us to consider the elements that have been successful in building this culture in the agency. There are five that stand out:

Make effectiveness everyone’s job

One of our most important steps was to demystify strategy. There can often be a false assumption that strategy is the purvey of the strategy planner, or team alone. It isn’t and it should not be.

Strategy is not easy, but some things should never be convoluted, inaccessible, vague or jargon filled. At Core, we have a Strategy Practice, but one of our main roles is to ensure strategic principles are understood and practiced though out the organisation rather than siloed in one place.

To this end we developed a bespoke training programme around the fundamentals of advertising and marketing effectiveness (we called it FAME) and rolled it out across the business. This has meant that everyone is comfortable with the fundamentals and can use them. Ad Executive, John Hegarty once said “effectiveness is the goal and creativity is the strategy.” We couldn’t agree more, which is why everyone at Core is trained in effectiveness, and effectiveness is baked into every piece of work we pursue.

Use small but cross discipline expert groups

Collaboration is essential to effective creativity in advertising. This does not mean a cast of thousands working on everything. However, it does mean that getting a small team with diverse expertise can be much more fruitful than a team of similar people. Much of getting to an effective place is putting the right skillsets together on the right project. Selecting the right mix from creative teams, social experts, data scientists, researchers, media planners, or sponsorship experts allows to create small teams tailored for specific jobs.

Don’t take the strategy to the team, use the team to create the strategy

Often, there is a feeling that the Strategist must be the author and owner of the strategy, the proposition, or the brief. In some cases, that will work well. However, the Strategist’s real role is to guide and guard the strategy, not to generate it alone. Sometimes, the unlocking element of an effective strategy will come from a team member who lives and breathes the client’s business and knows it inside out. Sometimes, it will come from a creative team, or an analyst. The most effective campaigns often come from teams for whom the strategy emerges, rather than is prescribed.

Focus disproportionately on a diagnosis of the problem

Understanding the problem reads like an obvious recommendation, but this stage is often when many briefs go awry. The rise of real time measurability of some forms of communication, and the increasing speed with which advertising need to result in sales uplift, has led to a situation where briefs often focus on symptoms, not real diagnoses. It has been said that in advertising and marketing, strategy is pointing creativity and resource at the right problem. Putting energy into ensuring that the problem (or opportunity) is the right one, or the wrong one, is energy well used.

Effectiveness starts and ends with measurement

Focusing on measurement can lead us to think that everything is all about numbers and graphs. Statistics are important, but what this point is really about, is knowing (not guessing) when you have a problem to solve. It is also about knowing, and not guessing, when you have positively impacted this problem. Effective marketing and advertising are essentially about a “from/to” story, but you can’t have a “from” or a “to” without a clear focus on measurement at the right time.

These are not new lessons, and they are not revolutionary notions.

Why are we talking about them? Because they work.

Shane Doyle and Andy Pierce are strategy directors with Core

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