At the Euro Effies, Matt Gladstone, Strategy Partner at Grey London, advised authors of case studies to act like detectives when writing their paper. WARC’s Managing Editor, Lucy Aitken, explains why.

For anyone who is entering awards this year – and here it’s worth mentioning that the deadline for the free-to-enter WARC Awards is 19 February – I want to share some advice that I jotted down at the Euro Effies forum hosted by EACA in Brussels late last year.

EACA invited Matt Gladstone, Strategy Partner at Grey London, to share his advice on how to write an award-winning case study, and also invited some of the winners to share their insights. In this piece, I’ll share Gladstone’s words of wisdom and bring in examples from the fantastic set of winners (which WARC subscribers can read in full here).

Start with the body on the floor

Gladstone’s first piece of advice is to write a case study like a detective novel – i.e. start with the body on the floor. Except in this case, your body on the floor is the results. And you need to spend time with the results, particularly for an effectiveness competition. “Spend the first few weeks getting the data,” he recommends. “Go to whoever owns data in your organisation and download the lot. Here’s where you can really win.”

Authors then need to work backwards to show how marketing achieved the results: he suggests spending two-thirds of your time on the back section of the paper and just one third on the front.

The gold-winning Magnum Pints case, through LOLA MullenLowe, is a good example of how to showcase impressive results very clearly.

It sets up the background of the Unilever ice cream brand’s plateauing growth and shows how product innovation and creating a new consumption occasion delivered more than €65m in value sales across Europe, smashing the €46m target.

Include a murderously good ‘killer chart’

Judges, says Gladstone, “want a simple document to read with a clear story line from the beginning to the middle to the end. Don’t waffle and make sure you use visuals and charts, especially the killer chart with a line that goes up. Show a flat line, your work launching, then the line going up.”

For an exemplary case study in terms of how charts and tables were used to tell a story, take a look at the bronze-winning case, through Grey Denmark.

This Swedish furniture retailer disrupted its category by behaving like a fashion brand associated with the arts scene. It worked, delivering a ROMI of €7.77:1.

Use controls: inching ever closer to the smoking gun

Gladstone suggests that, as part of the evidence that shows your advertising works, a control is required. For instance, show a before and after, or a region showed the ads versus a region that didn’t. “Econometrics aren’t enough,” he cautions. “You have to have an elevator pitch story. You’ve already got a line that goes up and a region that didn’t advertise where the line didn’t go up. Tell the story to convince a jury.”

The 2018 Euro Effie Grand Prix winner, The Mud Soldier for Visit Flanders, by Ogilvy Social.Lab Belgium, demonstrates a strong ‘before’ and ‘after’.

Visitor numbers to Flanders Fields were declining in 2015 and 2016. As the case study points out, if that trend continued, it would have lost more than 47,309 more unique visitors in 2017. So Flanders Fields needed a strong idea to reverse the decline. Enter The Mud Solider, a statue of a soldier made of mud and sand that dissolved as it was exposed to rain to show that mud had caused many soldier deaths. The decline stopped and 514,000 unique visitors went to Flanders Fields in 2017, an 8.3% increase.

Swap Poirot for Holmes

At this point in the paper, Gladstone suggests swapping Hercules Poirot for Sherlock Holmes, using elimination to show clearly the effect between the comms and the results.

He reminds: “Marketers don’t only do comms, so what about pricing? Product and packaging changes? Distribution? In-store promotion? PR? You must either prove these had no effect and did not change or quantify the effect that they did have. All those things need to be accounted for.”

The gold-winning Art Pass case study, by 101 London (now part of MullenLowe London) demonstrates how to discount effectively. It shows how British charity Art Fund ensured that more art gets saved and seen by introducing a membership scheme called the National Art Pass. In the results section of the case study, it states that the ROMI was £7.69 for every £1 spent and that 94 organisations acquired 200 objects, works of art or collections. It then discounts other factors that could have contributed, for instance, other art memberships schemes or tourist visitor numbers.

Gladstone also lists other metrics that can help demonstrate the success of a campaign:

  • Staff morale
  • Creating a brand idea which can be used in other markets in the future
  • Reduced costs leading to a more efficient marketing model for the future
  • Share price increases

Just one more thing…

Gladstone further points out that, “great papers have great insights that look like they will work. For judges, their first ‘a-ha!’ moment is when they read a good insights section and it excites them. That’s when you get emotion into the heart of the judge. So don’t create suspense or tell everyone how wonderful you are.”

In other words, a little Columbo-like humility goes a long way.

The WARC Awards, which recognise next-generation marketing effectiveness, close for entries on 19 February. More details on how to submit your work into this free-to-enter global case study competition can be found here.