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Can you anticipate effectiveness?

Can you anticipate effectiveness?
2014 Effectiveness Awards judge Dominic Box continues our blog series leading into the big night in London on 27th October.

My first boss was Len Weinreich and one of the first things he taught me was that advertising should never be judged as art, but that there was an art to judging it.

Len knows more than a thing or two about great advertising given his (long) career as creative director, copywriter, IPA Fellow, awards judge, and author of the very entertaining book 11 Steps to Brand Heaven. In the book he compares faith in the creative idea with religious belief,but warns, "Whatever promises are made there are no certainties".

Until the campaign happens there is no certainty about the outcome, just a sense of belief (in the heart of the creative), faith (in the mind of the client) or hope (in every sinew of the account man) that it will work.

After it has run, people try to divine the truth in order to define what happened. And, of course, at this point there’s a desire to find any way at all in which it worked.

Whereas there will be some client companies that set objectives for communications which are introspective (for example, measuring enjoyment, engagement, appreciation or comprehension) and others that set targets for the resulting shift in advertising awareness and brand awareness.

However, neither of these in themselves prove true effectiveness for the business.

The key question that requires proof beyond doubt when judging advertising or any other brand communications is...

Has it had the effect on the business of the brand it was designed to achieve?

So the challenge at the outset of any brand communications campaign is to anticipate the benefit for the business. And that means being able to demonstrate, before it has happened, why it is worth doing.

The reason for this is that businesses are very good at preparing and measuring return on investment models for activities undertaken by functions outside marketing.

CEOs and MDs have become used to managing operations functions with the help of initiatives such as TQM and TPM. In order to maintain competitiveness manufacturing has to be lean and be subject to highly efficient standard operating practice and continuous improvement disciplines.

The key measurements are financial and the daily focus is on cost reduction. Similarly, in Sales, the metrics are financial and the focus on price v cost.

By comparison the Marketing function was traditionally given license to operate less formally because of the intangible nature of brands and the creative processes of brand development.

As a result it has been difficult to determine whether Marketing (as a function) is operating well and/or whether the Marketing (activities) are working well.

In recent times whilst creativity in the broadest sense is celebrated and recognised as being important, no one would claim it is the end in itself. More efficient and effective communications are known to be crucial to brand and business success; to win the argument for investment nowadays there needs to be a sound business case demonstrating that it will work.

Some time ago I was asked by a CEO if the advertising budget should be doubled. Or more specifically, “What will I get back if I spend twice as much?”

The operations director could calculate the return from doubling capital investment in new processing kit; the sales director could project the benefit of doubling the promotion expenditure fund; but I didn’t have an answer for the effect of doubling the ad budget. I’m sure Marketing Directors today will have a better answer than I did.

Good Effectiveness cases are the ones demonstrating that the purpose of communications is to improve business performance by proving the benefit of expenditure through demonstrating the return on investment.

Sometimes cases can go a step further and show the benefit of increasing investment throughout a campaign and illustrate how more investment generates greater returns.

An even better case would show the business case for investment and the anticipated rate of return, in financial terms, that was made before it was signed off.

It would then go on to prove that the return was realised. The activity worked as promised, for certain.

Dominic Box is Managing Director at Tangible Branding.

Check out the 35 campaigns shortlisted for the 2014 IPA Effectiveness Awards.

Explore our extensive Effectiveness Hub, a treasure trove of valuable knowledge.

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Last updated 18/09/2014

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