The WARC Awards are now open for entries. Here John Bizzell, WARC's Awards Lead, finds out what the three European jury chairs will be looking for in the 2024 winners. Meet Expedia’s Kevin Mercer, Essity GmbH’s Tanja Grubner and Heineken’s Joost Hoppe.
Kevin Mercer brings over a decade of experience in developing award-winning creative campaigns for brands ranging from big multinationals like Nestlé to small start-ups. At the heart of all his work is a laser-like focus on creative effectiveness. Prior to leading strategy for Expedia’s Hotels.com and Vrbo brands, Kevin led brand strategy at LEGO, where he developed their inaugural Creative Effectiveness programme, and secured the brand’s first ever effectiveness award.
“Any entity that has a voice has a role to play in culture; and for brands this means creating a fresh way for people to see the world that drives a positive impact. Dove helped us see beauty through a totally different lens; Denmark’s ‘Empty Chairs’ work changed the conversation and legislation on children’s mental health; IKEA has blended infiltrating popular culture with continually pushing us to see our homes in a new light while keeping their ‘Wonderful Everyday Platform’ fresh. Cultural impact means brands need to create new properties or ideas, not just dopamine-hit partnerships with celebrities in culture, to borrow their fame and credibility. Don’t borrow from culture; add to it.”
“Purpose becomes powerful when it enables marketing to improve products and profits, while benefiting the wider community. Purpose works when forcing a strategic choice. At Expedia Group, our purpose is to power global travel for everyone, everywhere, which orchestrates our communications, our products and our DEI initiatives, but also ultimately drives our growth by bringing more people into travel. It gives us something to deliver against and in doing so also builds a consistency in the role we play in travellers’ lives.”
What ‘good’ looks like
“I want to see work that demonstrates that creativity works. Effective work comes from fresh, unconventional approaches to the same problems we all have faced as marketers. It should be grounded in empathy for people and avoid ideas understandable only to those who work in advertising or within a small metropolitan bubble. As WARC’s Creative Effectiveness Ladder shows, effectiveness comes in many forms, so avoid cramming in every possible result at the expense of a simple, compelling story.”
Tanja Grubner believes in brand bravery, championing change and creative effectiveness. Her brands Libresse and Bodyform have received 400+ award, including Grands Prix from the WARC Awards and Cannes Lions, and a D&AD black pencil. In her current role, she disrupted the feminine care category with taboo-breaking campaigns #BloodNormal, Viva La Vulva, #WombStories and #Periodsomnia, which tackled toxic stereotypes around periods, vaginas and women’s bodies.
“The purpose of purpose is brand and business growth. Purpose needs to be true to the brand and the category it operates in otherwise it’s fake and a recipe for disaster. It’s never a proxy for charity, CSR or philanthropy. Purpose is a guide for decision making. The alignment or misalignment of a brands and buyer’s values should drive purchase considerations. Individuals collectively matter and consumer culture matters. Because what communities do, laws reflect. I’ll be looking for entrants to demonstrate that brands do not have to choose between purpose (good) and growth (profit) – it’s always AND not OR.”
Long- and short-term marketing
“Successful brands use creativity to unlock organic growth, enlarge the category and strengthen brand health. They’re building relationships and helping people to fall in love with their product/service. No person on earth wants to be ‘acquired’ via performance marketing! I’m curious to discover work that will serve as benchmarks for the industry as we make every Euro count and overcome the divide between short- and long-term. Snickers HUNGERITHM was a brilliant example of a strategic promotion that drove sales and built the brand.”
What makes an entry stand out
“I’m expecting to see the unexpected! Brands that have found their authentic tone of voice, aren’t hiding behind marketing jargon, are a force of progress and lead the change they want to see. I’ll be looking for brands that have answers for today’s challenges, who demonstrate that their strategy is creative, their creative is strategic and their impact long lasting. Creativity that is inclusive, wins hearts and minds, grows markets and shifts culture will stand out. Needless to say, if it was easy, everybody would do it!”
Joost Hoppe has driven transformational projects for globally recognised brands like Heineken and Netflix, specialising in optimising media operations and steering global digital transformations. His leadership in programmatic marketing and innovative campaigns has earned him a reputation for delivering significant results. With a track record of strategic excellence, Joost is dedicated to shaping the future of media and marketing.
“Creativity needs to be a representation of the consumers that are buying our products, and consumers are demanding more from brands in this lens than ever before. I hope to see examples of creativity in the WARC Awards 2024 submissions that showcase how creativity can be a force for good. Dove and United Colors of Benetton come to mind immediately as some of the first international brands with a variety of culturally relevant campaigns that show how representation can be relevant and impactful in marketing.”
Balancing brand building with activation
“Given my background I truly enjoy reviewing a strong, short-term activation plan with a well thought through hypothesis and experimentation framework. For brands to grow in the long term, it is critical to focus on basic principles around consistent investment in line with market share insights and excellent creative execution. It would be fantastic to have more submissions on long-term brand impact as this is the most critical insight to get C-level buy-in.”
Strategic thinking and the cost-of-living crisis
“With consumers being more thoughtful in their purchasing behaviour, most advertisers follow the same pattern of being more choiceful in their budget allocation. Within our industry, this sometimes unfortunately leads to great ideas being put on hold. I do see benefits for brands to increase focus during this state of volatility on key levers and drivers of impact leading to fewer, but potentially bigger and better execution.”
The WARC Awards 2024 are open for entries now. Early-bird deadline: 12 December, final deadline: 6 February. Download your entry pack here. Register for the free ‘How to Win’ webinar on 5 December here.