Proportionate to adspend, Asia is not receiving the recognition it deserves across effectiveness awards, observes Mark Hadfield, of iris Worldwide. To remedy this, a renewed focus on long term impact is required from both clients and agencies.

The annual WARC 100 report has recently been released, and as usual, it has some interesting findings in it. (The WARC 100 celebrates the most effective marketing that has delivered disproportionate impact for businesses.)

However, there was one finding that jumped out at me, and it opens up the debate again about the quality of marketing across Asia.

This is not a new debate, and opinions vary about whether Asian marketing is weaker than that elsewhere. Also, with that discussion comes a bunch of subjectivity.

However, this chart shows something more profound and important.

This shows that across most regions, entries into the WARC 100 is approximately proportionate to the amount of adspend within that region. 

Australia & NZ are the positive anomaly, showing a 3% adspend and an 18% representation. This means that even though their market is a small one, they have a disproportionate share of effectiveness case studies coming from their region. 

Now, look at Asia. 27% adspend, yet with only 9% representation within the report.

This is pretty damning. 

It tells us as a region we are spending too much and producing too little business impact. (That WARC and the Gunn Report can see...)

Moreover, if we look at some of the lessons WARC share in their report, it is easy to see why:

Effective campaigns have PR 'baked in'.

Put simply: Work that creates fame, delivers business results for clients. Work that aims for mediocrity delivers mediocrity.

Effective brands have multi-year platforms.

Put simply: Enduring creative platforms deliver business results for clients. Short term platforms under-deliver commensurate with their adspend.

Don't get me wrong, there are cases of long-term brand platforms within Asia that have also created fame and are still delivering business results for clients. However, they are in the minority in a region dominated by short-termism and risk aversion.

So what can we do about it?

And when I say 'we' - I mean agency folk and clients too.

Two areas need addressing to improve the business results of marketing in Asia

Client KPIs

Client KPIs need to be focused on longer-term business impact as a priority and short-term communications impact only as a tertiary measure. In a world when Marketing Directors move roles on average once every 18 months, and when shareholder value is looked at quarter-on-quarter this is difficult to manage. Yet it must be achieved. There is such a depth of evidence to prove longer-term brand and business building, yet marketing clients (and ultimately CEOs) choose to ignore it to focus on short-term measures.

Agency Awards

There are no shortage of awards shows around Asia, and quality varies drastically. We should place more importance and kudos on celebrating longer-term business impact over nebulous creative awards (dominated by 'initiative' work). Which, by rights, means we should herald the WARC 100 as the barometer for the best work across the region that celebrates business impact. I was judging the Singapore Effies recently, and I was happy to see they have introduced a 'Sustained Success' category. We need to ensure that winning in this category is celebrated as the pinnacle of success.

Only by starting a discussion, and challenging the status quo, will we begin to raise the quality of the work and in turn improve the business impact.

If we in agencies are scared to confront and discuss this, what hope do we have?

What other measures do you feel need to be addressed, to repair this imbalance? I would love to know your thoughts.