The Warc 100 rankings list campaigns according to their success at effectiveness and strategy awards. Overstay Checkout for Art Series Hotels, the innovative campaign by Naked Communications Melbourne, was ranked fifth.

We talked to Lach Hall, co-author of the case study, about eureka moments, why we need effectiveness awards and his top tips for writing better case studies.

1. How did the planning team at the agency develop the campaign strategy for 'Overstay Checkout'? Was there a 'eureka' moment, what kind of research/industry analysis was undertaken and what was the role of the client in this process?

We were coming off the back of a very successful campaign for Art Series Hotels the summer before – Steal Banksy (subscribers only). Our job this time around was not only to create a campaign that continued to set the hotel apart and directly increase room nights for the summer, but also one that that could be rolled out again, whenever they needed a lift, in order to become less reliant on big ideas like "Steal Banksy".

Steal Banksy - Art Series Hotels
One of the pieces of artwork from 'Steal Banksy'

Directly increasing sales in the short term meant we needed a promotion. But the last objective, that it be "reusable", was key. It meant we needed a promotion that was unique to the hotel that would consistently provide value over and above the hotel itself to incentivize guests to stay. This notion led us down the path of looking for customer pain points. If we could solve a real consumer problem in an original way, we figured we'd have an ownable, sustainable promotion.

The client provided some internal research. For leisure travelers, we saw one of the biggest pain points was the 11:00 a.m. check out policy. Not revolutionary, but it was something we investigated to see whether or not we could change it. At this point, we more heavily involved the client. We wanted to know more about it. What drove it? Why did it occur? What would happen if it were extended? Did it change if the hotel was full or not?

We found out that if a hotel isn't full, there's actually no major logistical or financial reason why guests have to leave their room at 11:00. It just makes it a little easier for cleaning which is somewhat of a non-issue at low occupancy.

If there was a "eureka moment", this was it. With this thought, the Overstay Checkout, where guests didn't have to check out until the next guest checked in (even if it was the next day), was born.

2. What's the importance of effectiveness and strategy awards – which judge case studies, not the campaign creative – within the industry?

I'm a firm believer in accountability in advertising. Without it, it's just a weird form of art. The tricky part when it comes to awards is that, in many cases, the business effects of advertising are felt over the longer term. There are ways to measure specific short-term aspects of advertising effectiveness, but the endgame, sales, may not be felt for years. And the real value is cumulative. It results in stronger, more resilient brands over time.

Many campaigns I've been involved in such as the Overstay Checkout have had very specific, easy to measure, short term business goals. With the Overstay Checkout, while we over-delivered on the campaign goals and thus were effective in the short term, I'm glad we were also recognized on the basis of creativity and won creative awards. I say this because we all believed that the value we injected into the brand with the campaign was far greater than what the immediate short term results would show. Sentiment to which has been backed by Peter Field's study with the IPA that showed the long-term correlation between effectiveness of award winning campaigns to their counterparts.

In saying that, relying solely on creativity because of the murkiness of effectiveness means there's a very real danger of forgetting what creativity is supposed to do. For example, we may be applauding campaigns that are creative, yet too cryptic for the average audience to understand. Or perhaps creative, yet lacking in adequate branding to link the creative with the brand. So perhaps the mere presence of awards for effectiveness is the most important aspect within the industry as they serve as a good reminder of what we're actually here to do.

Overstay Checkout - Art Series Hotels

3. Which effectiveness measures should the case study writer highlight – and which can they ignore?

I think this is quite simple really. Effectiveness is nothing more than the ability to carry out a desired objective, so it makes sense that the effectiveness measures we choose to highlight are the ones that relate directly back to the challenge at hand. And since we're in the business of making brands money, it makes sense that any objectives we set and measure from a marketing and behavioral aspect ladder up to achieve a firm business goal. Simply saying something like, "we achieved our objective of 100,000 website visits", without showing how that ultimately impacted the business, is probably not sufficient.

4. Do you have any practical advice for planners who want to write better case studies?

There's a whole bunch of advice out there detailing how to write better case studies. Some of the best of these appear on the entry forms themselves. I'd like to suggest a few other thoughts.

  1. First, ask yourself if you really have a good enough idea to warrant obsessing over the entry for the required amount of time to make it a potential winner. Be brutally honest. They're not easy to write.

  2. Be strategic. Consider who your audience is: a juror who has to read through dozens of 2-3K word case studies. Consider their pain, then use tactics accordingly. Here's a few:

    1. Framing. We know creative awards are judged as much on the case study video as much as the idea itself, so forget trying to be the classic academic planner and inject a little of that thinking into your effectiveness case study. Try to use as many visuals as possible. Set out your arguments in lists. Use easy to read typefaces and formatting. Hook them with a story early on, make it coherent and use digestible, easy-to-read language throughout (but keep it smart).

    2. Social proof – Try to add easy cues towards credibility into the case study using images and quotes from reputable publications clearly showing their logos or in the case of industry experts bold their name or set them out on separate lines.

    3. Priming – Use words that are in the award. If it's an effectiveness award, use the word effective. If it's an innovation award, use the word innovation. If it's a PR award… etc.

    4. More Priming, Social proof and Availability – Finally (and I might be throwing myself to the wolves here), if effective case studies are inherently hard to read, consider getting a more digestible version (i.e. a video) into the jurors' minds before judging by releasing the case study to trade press. Even better if you can do so in a way that gets industry experts applauding it. By doing so, jurors should have a better (and hopefully favorable) understanding of the campaign from the outset and might make it easier for them to justify awarding it on an emotional level.

Lach Hall is now Communications Strategy Director at Silver + Partners NYC.