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The box set binge approach to effectiveness

The box set binge approach to effectiveness
The publication of 'Advertising Works 22' is an opportunity to 'binge' enjoy several cases at one sitting. Industry Judge Tony Regan, founder of Brand Performance, encourages readers to get stuck in.

For the authors featured in 'Advertising Works 22', the hardback that brings together winning cases from the 2014 IPA Effectiveness Awards and essays analysing themes from the competition, the book must have a satisfying heft.

Somehow, it seems even heavier than other books of the same size. In fact, with its glistening gold jacket, it might be the closest an IPA-awarded author will get to the feeling described by Oscar-winners about the surprising weight of the gold statuette – the equivalent of a gallon of milk, according to the New York Daily News.

Packed with 34 cases, the book’s literal bulk is the physical embodiment of the weighty evidence captured in its paper and ink. Some readers might be daunted by the prospect of digging into all this impressive-looking material.

As an Industry Judge of the awards, I can offer some guidance. I was on one of the two panels that each worked through more than thirty cases in order to provide the Client Judges with a shortlist of cases from which they could decide on the winners of Gold, Silver and Bronze awards and Special Prizes.

I clearly remember coming across the Foster’s case that later became the 2014 Grand Prix winner. It stood out for me, even in the early stages, in no small part because it was a story so well told. The craftsmanship of its storytelling was a distinct element of the pleasure in reading it.

At the book's launch, Lorna Hawtin, Convenor of Judges and Editor of ‘Advertising Works 22’, talked about the importance of treating these cases as ‘stories’ to be shared within a community to pass on valued learning. I couldn’t agree more.

In the intensity of agency life these days, planners don’t have time to think and reflect; this means we spend our lives hunting down information in bite-sized chunks, developing arguments from fragments of evidence and glimpsed observations.

Developing or refining our detective and analytical skills in the age of Google, we are orientated towards searching for info-nuggets, killer slides and cut-and-paste information. We are planning with the equivalent of snackable content; it's as if TV viewers only watched a diet of YouTube clips, rather than also watching whole series on box set.

However, I’d recommend the box set approach for working through these IPA Effectiveness cases. That was how I approached the shortlisting task – allocating a morning here, an afternoon there, to work through a handful of cases each time.

If other demands swept those time allocations away, I found myself burning the midnight oil in the clichéd way, like someone treating themselves to one more ‘Breaking Bad’ episode before going to bed.

These cases really are immersive content, and the best of them are always well-told stories rather than dry academic analyses. So, since they’re written like stories, why not read them like that? It’s how they’ll stick in the memory – and human brains (especially planners' brains) are great at resurfacing content (stories and characters), when these are triggered in a client meeting months or years later.

It’s great that these cases are tagged and searchable through the IPA's EASE and Warc. But I would argue that this can lead to the cut-and-paste approach when it’s actually the narrative sweep of these stories that can make an individual case memorable and retrievable for planners.

These cases belong to all of us now: they can be part of our shared folklore. Just as fans of ‘Friends’ can pick out episodes as ‘the one where Ross finds out/Joey moves out/Rachel quits’, we can talk about ‘the one where…’ brand X or brand Y staged a comeback, rediscovered its purpose or brilliantly applied behavioural economics thinking.

In launching '50 Words for Snow', her most recent album, Kate Bush described the importance of crafting an album with a particular sequence of songs that might be unappreciated by a download generation conditioned to consume music in individual tracks.

In a similar vein, my experience is that any of the IPA Effectiveness cases is far better appreciated in a single sitting, with its beginning, middle and end, rather than by experiencing snippets absorbed across a week of commuting.

Lorna Hawtin has edited ‘Advertising Works 22’ in a thematic way that clusters cases together under headings like ‘Creating Fame’, ‘New Product Launches’ and ‘Staging Comebacks’ – rather than simply in the conventional manner of which cases won Gold, Silver or Bronze. Each section contains essays and 3-5 cases, making it perfect – I would suggest – as a way into using a box set approach to reading the book.

So, carve out a few hours away from your desk, explain to your boss that you’re doing something far more valuable than waiting in for the gas company, and settle down to read a set of cases grouped under one of Lorna’s thematic headings.

Even better, why not make it a team exercise? An office-based book club could progress section by section through the cases, stimulated by each theme’s introductory essay. The discussion could stress-test the validity of a case and rehearse the re-telling of each story.

Months later, you could find yourself working with those colleagues on a pitch and collectively recalling ‘the case where…’ as the inspiration for the breakthrough that you need.

Tony Regan is Founder of Brand Performance and 2014 IPA Effectiveness Award judge.

Last updated 16/03/2015

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