Creativity and effectiveness

By Peter Field

Marketing and IPA Databank Consultant

In June 2010 the IPA published the results of merging the IPA Databank of Effectiveness Awards cases with the Gunn Report database of creativity in the report titled ‘The link between creativity and effectiveness'. The analysis revealed that creatively awarded campaigns in the IPA Databank grew market share 11 times more efficiently than creatively non-awarded campaigns and that the more creative awards a campaign picked up, the more effective it was likely to be. The report's findings surprised few in the creative agency world, which has long believed that creativity and effectiveness were linked. But the IPA Effectiveness Awards teach us that it is one thing to believe something and another to prove it, and there is a burning need for more empirical evidence of what works in communications to combat the ever more bizarre beliefs that infect it. So I'm delighted that this latest round of the IPA Effectiveness Awards adds further evidence to the IPA analysis: at least eight of the entered campaigns will make it into the Gunn Report by dint of creativity and most of these have also made it into the Advertising Works 19 book by dint of proven effectiveness. At the time of writing it is too early to analyse rigorously all the 2010 entrants in the same way that the 2000-2008 entrants have been, but we can see if the creatively awarded amongst them appear to confirm the earlier findings. By ‘creatively awarded’ I mean winners of one or more of the major creative awards that earn inclusion in the Gunn Report. One incidental finding of the IPA analysis that has remained depressingly constant is the relative lack of investment behind creatively awarded campaigns, which continued to enjoy significantly less ‘extra share of voice’ (share of voice minus share of market) than creatively non-awarded campaigns. Extra share of voice (ESOV) was shown in Marketing in the Era of Accountability to be a very powerful driver of effectiveness (please note that we no longer refer to this as ‘excess’ share of voice as this undermines its value and importance). But the prevailing ‘logic’ appears to be that the benefit of greater effectiveness is that it enables you to reduce your media budget and still achieve your targets. This might make some sense in a few categories such as cars where production levels cannot easily be increased if demand improves, but for most brands (especially in a recession) this simply means you will squander a time-limited opportunity for relatively inexpensive market share gain. It is madness: category-leading creativity and effectiveness should be a signal for increased investment to ‘sweat’ the asset while it is still potent. Happily the Virgin Atlantic case study comes flying in to the rescue here with its virtuoso demonstration of how to combat recession: invest in creativity (the‘Still red hot’25th birthday campaign) and the communications budget (+10%). Meanwhile the key competitor cut their budget by 13% and most competitors ran price promotion advertising. The Virgin Atlantic campaign also illustrates two key typical characteristics of creatively awarded campaigns that partly explain their superior effectiveness. It was an emotional campaign – a TV-led restatement of everything Virgin Atlantic stood for when it started; it was also fascinating enough to generate large amounts of on and offline buzz (i.e.‘fame'). We know from the wider analysis of the IPA Databank (published in Marketing in the Era of Accountability) that both these characteristics are correlated with effectiveness (especially fame). The result? Virgin posted a £68m profit whilst its key competitor posted a £400m operating loss. This impressive profitability performance was driven by two key benefits of fame campaigns: superior share growth (demand for its seats surged in the midst of a massive downturn for the category) and reduced price sensitivity (they were largely able to resist the vicious price-cutting of less smart airlines).