The latest IPA Effectiveness Awards ceremony was held in London in October 2022. We caught up with Harjot Singh, Global Chief Strategy Officer, McCann, Convener of judges, who talks purpose, diversity, and his ambitions to gather more global examples in the IPA databank.

What was it about the Grand Prix winner that stood out?

I think there's been so much conversation on purpose, and I'm a firm believer that when purpose is done right it has genuine impact. This paper is a best-in-class demonstration of how a purpose anchored in a product truth can be used effectively in marketing and in delivering creative and commercial impact, and in this case also inspiring generosity among millions of British people.

I recall that this was an entry that was universally loved by the judges for a lot of reasons - the simplicity of the strategy, the unrelenting focus with which it was executed, the innovative multimedia integration over a long-term period, but if I had to pick one reason in particular it was the power of purpose in being able to generate and rekindle love for a heritage brand. This entry has the propensity to help the industry understand how to deploy purpose as a marketing lever to deliver exponentially greater results against very audacious commercial objectives.

Were there any other entries that you particularly championed in the judging sessions?

I got behind pretty much everything. An IPA paper that makes it this far is already quite good and robust. My approach was to actively look for the one or two things that stood out as best in class in each entry. The winning entries this year each exemplify best in class learning and especially in areas where the industry does not have as much effectiveness learning. 

What were the trends you noticed in the entries this year? 

The winning entries from 2022 prove that we have the power to turn around and reinvigorate struggling brands. We can create new habits. We can transform a brand’s point of difference into a point of view and keep it current and enduring.

These entries prove that we can change behaviour because we can move people with precision, with speed, and at scale. They prove that we can help brands advocate and agitate for change. We can shape, influence, and reflect social discourse as it develops across communities and culture. We can entertain people in funny ways to make them do very serious things. We know how to sell, and we know how to solve. We can change minds. We have the power to reimagine the world.

For this iteration of the awards, which run every two years, entrants had another unique challenge. In proving effectiveness they had to account for any distorting impact from the COVID pandemic, and to ensure that COVID did not prevent them from being able to submit a case at all. 

That itself is a reminder of another quality our industry displays at its best – to endure, no matter what. 

What do the entries tell us about marketing effectiveness?

The winning entries demonstrate that proving effectiveness sets a foundation for growth in a way that creates and delivers disproportionate value for brands. And the only way we can help the industry do that, and do that better, in more ways, across more categories and brands in more parts of the world is by helping brands have an unparalleled confidence. 

That confidence comes from knowing how to identify, invest in, and fortify what’s important and commercially meaningful. It’s the brand’s immune system if you will, it's what makes them irreplaceable.

I like to think that effectiveness is not only the most credible measure of the value of our work, it is here to help strengthen the immune system of brands. 

What would you like to see more of in the future?

The globally unmatched standards of the IPA Awards make them arguably the most sought-after and hard-to-win effectiveness awards in the world. For over 4 decades, winning an IPA Effectiveness Award, especially in the UK, has remained one of the most recognised accomplishments for clients and agencies.

As Convener of the 2022 IPA Effectiveness Awards, I have been guided by my ambition and commitment to ensure that the IPA Effectiveness Databank, which publishes and classifies the Awards cases, continues to be the most credible body of learning for the industry globally, but does so in a way and on a scale that is more progressive, expansive, and relevant than ever before.

The challenges of proving effectiveness, whether purpose led or otherwise, for charities, governments and not for profits are unique and different from the challenges of proving effectiveness for brands that operate within a capitalist enterprise. It was time we acknowledged that distinction at the IPA and the 2022 Awards have set that in motion by adding new categories.

To become and remain the most globally influential and credible body of learning for the industry we need to continue to enrich the Databank with new evidence from around the world to provide a framework for how purpose works and delivers for brands. I’d like to see more of this in years to come. The IPA Awards exist to inspire. They exist to lead and direct the industry. They are here to be the definitive resource to help us succeed with certainty.

We need to ensure we continue to make and invest in choices that keep us ahead, not just keep up with the industry. If we are going to direct the industry, we have to stay one step ahead.

What’s the one thing you learned from the entries that you will apply in future?

I genuinely believe that as an industry, we have a lot to offer and these awards, and particularly these entries prove that, because they remind us of our power. Our power to leverage and deploy the world’s most sought-after asset – creativity. These entries demonstrate that claiming and proving effectiveness remains the most compelling and irrefutable way to set the foundation for growth and deliver disproportionate impact and value for brands.

The Institute of Practitioners in Advertising established the IPA Effectiveness Awards competition in 1980. WARC subscribers can read all the case studies here, and the IPA Insights Report 2022 is available here