The industry has amassed a fantastic body of learning around effectiveness. Now it needs to put it into practice, according to Tom Roach.

And not just into practice, but into everyday behaviours.  That “is a different kind of task”, says Roach, recently installed as head of effectiveness at adam&eveDDB. 

“There is a big, big difference between what is said out there in the marketing press and on stages, and what’s actually happening in the day-to-day reality,” he told last month’s EffWorks conference, taking the audience through his assessment of where the industry stands before offering some practical advice on embedding effectiveness within organisations.

Effectiveness culture has gained a foothold

The IPA and ISBA have produced a series of reports that contain “a wealth of good stuff” about how to build an effectiveness culture in an organization – “particularly marketing organisations versus agencies”, he noted.

“There are genuine reasons to be cheerful today,” he argued. “It feels like we’re beginning, at least in the UK, to get some consensus around some of the principles and laws of how brands grow – even if it is nearly ten years since the book of that name was published.”

He sees signs of “a much needed coming together between brand and performance” as people start to figure out how these disciplines can best work together and learn from each other.

And then there’s formal effectiveness training, with more than 16,000 people having passed an IPA qualification with at least a foundation module on effectiveness. The IPA has also launched an accreditation qualification for agencies that can demonstrate a culture of effectiveness in their organisation.

But it has a long way to go

It’s not all good news, however, as the work of Binet and Field has exposed a culture of short termism – and that’s only from what’s in the IPA Databank. “That is the tip of the iceberg; what is going on underneath that tip, we don’t know but it probably isn’t particularly healthy,” Roach observed.

That short termism is partly a consequence of the volume of instant data generated by digital platforms, which in turn has left marketers looking at too many metrics, with insufficient time to review the available data, and not enough insightful analysis of it.

Elsewhere, the IPA & FT Board-Brand Rift report highlighted how senior leadership in business often lacks an appreciation of how brand building works. “I think many of us would recognise that many marketing cultures are still very skeptical of brand building marketing and see it as somehow old hat,” said Roach. “Although it’s quite pleasing when you see one of those stories in the marketing press when a FinTech brand for example discovers the awesome power of TV,” he added.

ISBA’s research, meanwhile, has shown that marketers themselves are modest about their achievements in this area: 50% gave themselves a six out of 10 or below for their own effectiveness culture. And that’s not surprising when the same report suggested that some basic stuff just isn’t happening: only 20% of agencies said the briefs they get most client usually include clear evaluation criteria and KPIs.

“There are clear capability and training issues that we all need to face into,” Roach stated. “It really is not much use for marketers to stand on platforms like this talking about how data-driven they are, when the reality is that many aren’t even putting KPIs on their briefs.”

Effectiveness is a habit, a muscle that needs exercising every day

Part of the solution, he believes, comes down to creating everyday effectiveness cultures. “Effectiveness all too often just means the big stuff – big names, big ideas, big moments, big awards – but all that means nothing if the rest of us are not translating it into small everyday habitual stuff – effectiveness is a habit, a muscle that needs exercising every day.“

A practical guide to everyday effectiveness culture

There are “simple, practical, analogue things that anybody can do” to help build a culture of effectiveness, he suggested.

• Write a report on the back of every creative brief: what you wanted the work to achieve, what you did, what you learned from it, what you would do again, what you wouldn’t do again.

• Capture ineffectiveness as well as effectiveness. “Real learning cultures are more about learning from the times something hasn’t worked than the times when we pretend it has.”

• Put it on the wall: post on the wall both the things that haven’t worked and those that have. Well-designed, a series of such posters can “get literally into the fabric of the building” so everyone can feel ownership of effectiveness.

• Share stories, not spreadsheets: “Don’t ever talk about facts purely in data terms; try and bring creativity into them as much as possible.”

• Use social media: an effectiveness culture can be built in all sorts of ways, including the use of social media videos.