The COVID-19 pandemic has seen brands attempt to shift emphasis from simply selling a product or service to effecting real-world change, but that’s what many of the most effective campaigns were already doing, according to a new WARC report.

Lessons from the Effective 100 is based on an analysis of the WARC Effective 100, a ranking of the world’s most awarded campaigns and companies for effectiveness. It identifies three themes.

Acts, not ads

This new report says that ‘acts, not ads’ is a theme of effective campaigns that predates the current situation; “we’re here for you” emails won’t cut it.

The report notes that, in order to rise above the daily blur of messaging, brands are commonly aligning themselves to a ‘greater cause’, basing their principles on the acts they do and the experiences they create for their customers.

This was especially true of French supermarket Carrefour which stocked and sold produce grown from illegal seeds to demonstrate its commitment to biodiversity, to show support for small farmers and to drive legislation change.

“Invest in the actions behind the causes your brand is aligned to, building platforms for consumers to participate in and change their world,” the report advises.

Doing so successfully requires integrity: closing gaps between purpose and actions is important to drive not just engagement and positive sentiment, but also faster growth and higher share prices.

Multiple approaches to driving fame

Ads don’t need to be traditional to be effective. The campaigns in this year’s Effective 100 stand out in the diversity of their approach to creative effectiveness, and the absence of a ‘traditional ad’ at the top of the table is notable.

The top campaigns frequently used fame-building tactics, often built on a highly PR-able idea with media in support; sociability, spin, salience and spectacle were all in evidence.

As Will Humphrey, Strategy Director at Wunderman Thompson, London, notes in the report: “It used to be that effective communications PR’ed the advertising. Now, increasingly, effective communications advertises the PR.”

Asian innovation

Six of the top ten campaigns, and 25% of the top 100, came from Asian countries. The combination of new tech adoption and fast-changing cultures and economies means that there is significant scope in Asia for innovation and marketing-driven growth.

The high mobile penetration in APAC, and relative proportion of mobile-only internet use in Asia is driving the use of mobile and apps as lead channel in four times the number of campaigns as elsewhere.

At the same time, Asian campaigns are also more likely to use online video, while being less likely to lead with television.

Read more in Lessons from the Effective 100, including the stories behind the top campaigns and expert commentary. Download the report here

Sourced from WARC