Archive for October, 2020

The source of great marketing is businesses that commit

Tuesday, October 27th, 2020

The best marketing comes from businesses that commit.

I learnt a lot as 2020 Convenor of the IPA Effectiveness Awards.

The intense (most intense in advertising worldwide?) judging process begins with reading thousands of words.  Over 60 papers of 4000 words plus appendices.  Then as convenor I attended three rounds (6 afternoons) of judging on zoom: Technical judges; Industry judges; Client judges.

The wisdom and commitment of all the judges was unquestionable.  The process was long, hard and argumentative.  More argumentative than 2018 when there was more consensus of opinion.  This year there was plenty of debate and discussion, opinions were changed, minds were made to rethink.  I learnt a lot from my fellow judges including the problems with “Monte Carlo simulations” (which sound more exciting than they are.)  And I observed a passion for effectiveness amongst the judges which paints a very optimistic picture of our industry.

There are several key themes from the well-deserved winners which are detailed in the AdWorks book available from the IPA.  The themes include the power of insight, the importance of belief in brand advertising, a redefinition of being challenger, lessons in brand turnaround, the impact of real life stories, how a great pr stunt can revive a brand and the role of tech in driving effectiveness.

There is one overriding lesson, which the Grand Prix winner (Tesco), the winner of best dedication to effectiveness (Audi) and the winner of best new learning (Diageo), all evidenced.  The one overriding lesson of the 2020 IPA effectiveness awards is the crucial importance of the entire business, not just the marcomms team,  being focused on marketing effectiveness.

This is when great longterm thinking can thrive.  Where marketing is never regarded as a cost, but as an investment.  Where strategic decisions can be based on creating sustainable demand, not just selling loss leaders.  It applies to client companies, but also to advertising agencies and media agencies.  It actually applies throughout the advertising eco-system at its most complex.

If the advertising agency is creating ads for the industry rather than for customers then it shows.  Every year new creative work can lead to the extinction of effective brand icons and fluent devices (as System One describe the memorable ad assets of a brand.)  Agencies dedicated to effectiveness rather than peer approval break this cycle and create longterm effective work.

Media budgets must be deployed strategically not just to deliver immediate key performance indicators and this too must be deep in the culture of the agency.

We need this cultural alignment in media owners too.  Brands can only successfully partner with media owners who have effectiveness built into their thinking, not just a quick sale to boost one month’s targets.

This year’s awards demonstrated the strategic power of PR stunts to drive growth.  Only PR activations that enhance brand power deliver this, and this too requires a cultural addiction to effectiveness not to generating views and creating empty clickbait.

Most of all it is the client company culture that allows great effective marketing to thrive.

The winners of the IPA effectiveness awards will be the envy of their peers.  A thorough reading of the papers delivers a blueprint for driving growth, which cannot be aped without a reset of the values of the boardroom so that they respect and value effective marketing for the long term.

Come out of the casino, this isn’t a gamble

Monday, October 12th, 2020

To craft a strong effective media plan you have to challenge everything, including yourself.

We are all subject to confirmation bias.  This means that when we hear something that we have heard before, or that we would like to believe, we are more likely to have faith in it.  We are not as rational or logical as we think we are, and understanding this is crucial to how and when you make data work for the best possible returns.

In “The Loudest Duck” Laura A. Liswood tells the reader that they should “tell grandma to go home”.  What she means here is that tales that your parents or grandparents might tell you, or the beliefs that you pick up as you grow up, are just a version of reality.  When you leave home, you need to leave those biases behind you to form healthy new relationships.

This is just as true of media decision making.  If you start out in performance media you need to learn and understand branding in order to fulfil your potential.  If all you know is branding then you need to learn to love performance.

Every media decision is driven by data. That sounds simple enough. But it isn’t. The question is what data you use; what data you reject; what data you use that you don’t even realise you are using (gut instinct, received wisdom, “common sense”); how you interpret all the data you have; and how you use it.

Data is in truth an all encompassing term, ranging from immediate performance metrics to longterm information about a brand.  It includes sat nav details about driver journeys and qualitative gut instinct learnings about deep rooted human behavior.

The crucial thing is to interrogate the data skeptically.  To understand where it is giving real new insights and where it is simply confirming existing bias.  For example in “Hello world, how to be human in the age of the machine” Hannah Fry writes “It is incredibly important .. to hold algorithms to account.”  She describes an experiment from 2015 when scientists set out to examine how search engines can alter people’s view of the world.  Using an upcoming election in India researchers created an experiment to understand the impact that different ordering of candidates on search engine results pages would have on voting intentions, and it exceeded all expectations.  Psychologist Robert Epstein concluded: “when people are unaware they are being manipulated, they tend to believe they have adopted their new thinking.”

It is equally true that when you hear an empathetic story about one user experience of a brand you must resist the tendency to regard this as a single truth.

Be aware of confirmation bias and question the findings.

Don’t put everything on red (or black).  Don’t stick to what you know and don’t reject the new.  An effective media strategy is not gambling. You don’t have to bet on performance versus branding.  You shouldn’t place all your chips on digital personalization nor on mass market broadcast.  It is crucial to create a balanced plan with an intelligent synthesis of all of the available data.

In this respect diversity of experience and thinking is absolutely vital to create the most effective balance across the whole of the plan.  It is for this reason that it is very important to get the right advice, and to use the right advisors.  Case study after case study shows (as Gideon Spanier writes) that digital brands thrive when they use broadcast media.  Traditional brands experience a step change when they incorporate best practice digital performance.

Understanding the effect each part of the plan has on the others – ie the systems effect unlocks this growth.

It is for this reason that the brands who are making the most from their media investments have a balance in their decision making.  Seeing how everything works together is crucial and learning how to challenge your own biases is essential.