Next week sees the launch of the first of this year’s WARC Rankings. Head of Content David Tiltman explains how the new Advisory Board has shaped their development.

First up is the Creative 100, which will rank the top campaigns and companies for creativity, based on performance in the top shows last year. In the following weeks we’ll launch the Media 100 and Effective 100 rankings, followed by deep analysis on the trends from this year’s results.

The Rankings – which we view as the ultimate benchmark for marketing communications – show us what good looks like, and how it’s changing. In an industry that sometimes struggles to defend its place in the C-suite, they offer an opportunity for marketers to reflect on the best in the business, and review the impact their own work has on their brands. Better work should lead to better outcomes.

So we take them seriously.

And we know the industry takes them seriously too.

Last year, when we relaunched the Rankings, we decided we needed to introduce more transparency. Partly for practical reasons: WARC became a sister company to Cannes Lions in 2018, so we needed to show we weren’t just including the shows they run. But also because the industry told us that’s what they wanted to see.

This year we’ve gone back to the industry. We assembled an Advisory Board of senior executives from across the industry. We interviewed them all, to get their input on how they wanted the rankings to develop, and their views on the shows we selected (and didn’t select) 12 months ago. Thank you to all of them for their time – and for all the other people we’ve talked to over the past few months.

In the interests of transparency, it’s worth sharing the main talking points from those discussions, and some next steps we want to take.

1. Show selection

• Generally our Advisory Board was happy with the shows we decided to include in the 2019 rankings, and were happy for a broadly similar line-up to be used for the 2020 rankings. However, there is scope to review this for 2021 (based on the upcoming 2020 shows) – in some cases, particularly in the creative space, there is a sense that quality is slipping on some shows, and we will review this over the course of this year.

• As the scope of commercial creativity broadens, some felt that there may also be scope to bring in different types of award; though it’s also fair to say most of our Advisory Board felt that the big shows were keeping up with this trend. We will be consulting more on this with a couple of shows in mind.

• We had some feedback from the industry in 2019 that we were missing high-quality single-market or sub-regional shows in the Creative 100. We asked our Advisory Board about whether we should include these. The answer was a near-unanimous no. Local shows, it was felt, vary significantly in quality and by restricting show selection to regional and global shows we are giving everybody a fair chance of success. We know that will disappoint some high-quality local shows, but this was a near-unanimous piece of advice from our Board.

• One potential exception is Greater China. Some, though not all, Advisory Board members felt that the best work from China isn’t properly ‘translating’ into international shows. We’re going to see whether this is justified and, if so, what we can do about it.

2. Methodology

• We were widely asked for more guidance on the categories within shows we include – and we are doing this with the 2020 launch.

• We were also asked for more guidance on how shows stand in the weightings we apply. This year we’ve indicated the order in which they ranked in our poll, plus more guidance on how we weight. See the methodology section for information.

• We had some feedback last year that we could look at ‘entry-to-win ratios’ (aka ‘conversion rates’ – or the percentage of entries that on to win at a show) as a way to judge the rigour of a show. There was some interest in this among the Advisory Board (many of whom track this number for their own award entries), but also a degree of scepticism about how we might be able to get this data on a large scale. It’s seen as a ‘nice-to-have’ and a way to sense-check perceptions of rigour – we’ll keep looking at ways to factor this in.

3. Deeper insights

• Several Advisory Board members stressed a need to see their company’s performance at a local, not just global, level. We’ll be developing our user interface to make this easier to achieve.

• We were also told that the link between creativity and effectiveness is key. We’re working on this – and last week launched new data that showed that 38% of Creative 100 campaigns subsequently won effectiveness awards. There’s more to come here.

We hope you find the WARC Rankings useful and inspiring. They remain a work in progress – and we genuinely welcome feedback from across the industry.