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International cases often provide the best effectiveness lessons

International cases often provide the best effectiveness lessons
Newsworks Planning Director Judy Harman puts the spotlight on global campaigns after they won big at the 2014 IPA Effectiveness Awards.

Ten years ago I was privileged to visit Lagos, Nigeria. The aim of the trip was to conduct training for clients and JWT affiliated agencies but, of course, I learned more than I ever taught.

I also discovered one of my favourite communications strategies ever.

The client was a planned parenthood organisation and the brief was to advise people to have fewer children.

The data was overwhelming. Fewer births would mean fewer child and maternal deaths. A longer time between births would benefit the mother’s health and also lower infant mortality.

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There were huge cultural and economic reasons why the previous strategy of charities and governmental organisations - telling people to have fewer children because they would be better off - was not gaining traction, particularly in rural communities.

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The communications solution was not to focus on the parents’ health or wealth or hardship, nor the sad statistics of infant deaths, but to talk about the health and wellbeing of the children that were already born and cherished. If a longer time was left between births, the existing children would be healthier, live longer and have happier lives. Simple, human and effective.

Sadly the creative work has gone missing, and much of it was in the form of storytelling advice and local posters for health workers, similar to this image.

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The fresh insight led to a campaign that was significantly more successful than previous admonitions. It never made it to a paper for the IPA Effectiveness Awards, but for me it was always a great example of how smart thinking could overcome seemingly insurmountable cultural and behavioural barriers.

This year I was honoured to be asked to be an industry judge for the 2014 IPA Effectiveness Awards. Clients and agencies worldwide recognise the prestige of a prize-winning case study and there was strong international representation in the 2014 awards shortlist – nine of the 35 papers were either authored from outside the UK or covered another non-UK country.

These exemplary papers – and award winning cases from previous years – cover a wide variety of brands and tasks, and always make fascinating reading, because they help us step outside our own cultural assumptions.

Where once the words “global advertising” could strike fear into the heart of any ad person, with dark imaginings of standardised campaigns, here there are global brands that have uncovered a universal human insight that transcends cultural boundaries. Or multinational campaigns that have implemented a striking local activation.

Most compelling of all are the stories where the sheer brilliance of local cultural insight (Cadbury Dairy Milk: A meetha journey is my personal favourite from 2012), or the absolute dedication to creating behavioural change, even if it defied the category conventions in most other countries (Health Promotion Board Singapore: I QUIT – From anti-smoking to pro-quitting) make us re-think our own attitudes to change.

This year’s prizes provided some powerful cases that we can all learn from.

For a difficult to reach audience and a challenging communications task, it’s hard to beat trying to demobilise Colombian FARC guerrillas (At Christmas everything is possible from Lowe SSP3 for The Colombian Ministry of Defence). Their understanding that guerrillas are human too led to a Christmas campaign, which not only brought 711 guerrillas from the jungle to society, but also delivered great financial payback in the form of tax receipts and reduced army casualties while also earning the campaign a Silver last night.

Native advertising and all things content are still in their infancy, so it’s great to see the Silver awarded Deutsche Telekom: Move On paper proving the business case for user-generated content.

And the MILO Twisted Football Bronze winning paper gives a unique insight into the longer term business effects of digital and social media activation that stands in sharp contrast to some of the short-term stunts that didn’t make the final cut.

Or for the ultimate in long-term proof, there’s also Building Beauty Dreams: 25 years of Lux advertising in Japan, a beautifully crafted Bronze awarded story of business success through recession and competitive onslaught that involved supreme dedication to finding and analysing vast amounts of data.

With the National Depression Initiative (NDI) by FCB New Zealand winning Gold and the Best International prize last night to boot, there’s a wealth of brilliant thinking and definitive proof in the international prize-winners – and, for me, the very unfamiliarity of the context makes the lessons jump out even more clearly.

Judy Harman is a 2014 IPA Effectiveness Awards judge and Planning Director at Newsworks.

Check out who won what at the 2014 IPA Effectiveness Awards at home and abroad.

Last updated 28/10/2014

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