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Seven ways to gain client approval for your case study

Seven ways to gain client approval for your case study
In every cycle of the IPA Effectiveness Awards, there are entries that never make it to the judging because clients withhold permission for cases to be entered into the competition, and later published. In this post, we list seven ways to persuade anxious or reluctant clients to sign off an awards entry.

1. Check where sensitivities lie

Almost the only cited reason for a client to withhold approval from a case study is the fear that a case contains commercially sensitive data, particularly figures used to calculate increases in sales or profits generated by the activity in question.Such concerns are mostly overdone.

Data in awards entries can be up to three years old by the entry deadline, and it will typically be a further six months before the case is published on the IPA website. The passage of time means that even if the activity was hugely successful, its financial impact will have been noted by the market, and could already have drawn responses from the competition. In many industries, third-party monitoring companies will have tracked shifts in market share and pricing, and have provided this data to any willing buyers. Media budgets, especially, are measured as a matter of course.

In addition, it should be noted that in more than 30 years of the Effectiveness Awards, the IPA has never come across a brand which has suffered commercial damage because of its involvement in an IPA Effectiveness case study.

Nevertheless, some organisations - particularly US-owned listed companies - are prevented from making selective disclosures of company data that is not known more generally in the market.

The important thing is to know what data has already been made public, both in the UK and outside. This involves looking at official City filings, annual reports, company presentations, interviews by the CEO, and other related material.

fiver pos.jpg (550)

For instance, Sainsbury's 'Feed your family for a fiver' (2010 - Gold, shown above) uses quotes in the public domain from Justin King, then Sainsbury's CEO, to provide quantified evidence of the success of its approach. 

Do not ignore what is said by rival CEOs, either. When RKCR/Y&R could not get the figure for 'average basket size' from its client, M&S, it quoted one from the CEO of competitor chain, Matalan. The resulting case, 'This is not just advertising', won the 2006 Grand Prix.

If clients can be shown what details have already been published, this may reduce the anxiety of including such information in a case study. There may still be other elements, such as the company's current profit margins or net profit figures, which still cannot included. Clarifying early on what remains out of bound can enable you to concentrate on finding alternative data to prove your effectiveness.  

2. Show the client  a win-win

As Dame Dianne Thompson, the chair of the 2016 judges, explains below, creating an IPA Effectiveness Awards entry is an opportunity for agencies and clients to work together. The result of this co-operation will be an indepth evaluation of a major project which can be used internally to justify the role of marketing, and its budgets, to the brand's wider organisation, including within the boardroom. Building this story on a detailed analysis of the financial value created by the marketing will make this narrative more convincing and attractive for sharing. 

It is little wonder, then, that Camelot - where Dame Dianne was previously CEO - has submitted four different IPA Effectiveness Awards, and believes that the experience was highly valuable.

3. Look for alternative data sources

When the brand's actual figures cannot be released, using indexed data to show the relative growth generated by the marketing activity without revealing the absolute numbers, is one of the most widely-used techniques in successful effectiveness cases (the Sainsbury's example cited above employed the technique to showing how the price perceptions about the supermarket improved).  

For its part, Premier Inn's 'Changing the face of budget hotels' (2014 - Silver) qutoes a third party source which aggregated room occupancy data from the chain's rivals  to show how Premier outperformed the competition. Lacking a profit margin for the Premier brand itself, the authors also found a credible proxy in the profit figure of Premier's owner, Whitbread, which is a publicly quoted group that had to make this information public. By looking widely it is often possible to find estimates of average profit margins for the industry concerned, or for a closely-related sector, that the client may find easier to sign off than the brand's own figures. 

4. Don't assume the worst

Some agencies assume that because organisations have a 'reputation for secrecy', that they will not participate in the Awards. However, brand owers such as P&G, IKEA and Mars, for instance, have all signed off on entries, in spite of their reputations for having closed corporate cultures. It is always worth asking for permission, particularly as the organisation may already have published a case study on related activity in international markets, which will make getting the green light easier. It can also help to show that related companies have been happy to prove their marketing works in public.

5. Think creatively about the financial value measured

Aviva 40 master-1.jpg (550px)

The central argument of Aviva's 'One Careful Owner(2014 - Bronze) is that the insurer's Paul Whitehouse-based campaigns (see example, above) helped lower the cost of selling new policies by encouraging buyers to talk directly to Aviva rather than using price comparison websites. The case study is thereforece focussed on the financial benefits of reducing costs, rather than growing profits - and this area is often less sensitive for clients.

6. Quote relevant third parties

If clients remain reluctant or restricted from being quoted publicly, city analysts and sector researchers often have their own figures and opinions that can be cited. See Hovis 'As good today as it's ever been' (2010 - Grand Prix) and 'Waitrose - Essential Waitrose' (2010, Gold) for examples of how to do this. Even endorsements of the campaign by media commentators enhance your case.

 7. Always give the client options

Above all, it is important to talk to clients early, transparently and consistently throughout the awards process about the kinds of data and materials that you would like to include in your case.

In the IPA's experience, it pays to think about gaining sign-off from the most senior client possible, and to plan ahead to ensure availability of key stakeholders in the final weeks before entries are due on April 15, 2016. Reassure the client that they will be able to vet the final draft in good time. Be persistent but flexible in case circumstances change, such as the main client departs.

In the ultimate resort, company data that cannot be made public can be put into an appendix that will be seen only by judges, and will not be in the published version of the case.

However, with creative use of data, some planning. and good agency-client communication, this can be avoided in all but the most extreme cases.

If you think the IPA can help you persuade a reluctant client to participate, please do not hesitate to get in touch.

You can also find information on all aspects of the Awards in the entry pack.

Last updated 09/12/2015

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