Ideas that work

Simon Lendrum on why the Effies are so valuable to our industry.

In my first year in the advertising industry – many, many years ago – I attended a talk on advertising
strategy. It was presented not by a planner but by the legendary UK creative Dave Trott. 

Dave stood in front of the hundred or so new-graduate recruits from all the best London agencies and drew a pie chart representing global market share in the cola category. There were only two players: Coca-Cola had about 80 percent share and Pepsi-Cola the remaining 20 percent. 

The shortest route for Coke to grow sales was to make the circle bigger. Increasing penetration or frequency of purchase in the category benefited Coke more than it did Pepsi, so it was the logical marketing objective to achieve. 

For Pepsi, however, anything that had a generic effect would benefit their rivals more. As the smaller player, growth would be achieved most effectively by stealing share from their competitor. 

The consequence of this clarity of thinking was decades of clearly differentiated advertising for Pepsi. ‘The Pepsi Generation’, later followed by ‘The Choice of a New Generation’, positioned Coke as ‘your parents’ Cola’ and Pepsi as the embodiment of youth. 

The point Dave was making was that the creative work was a direct result of the strategic marketing decisions made before that work commenced. It made the creative process easier. It made the creative work, well, work. Between 1970 and 1990, Pepsi market share grew by more than 10 percentage points, or more than 50 percent in sales revenue. Here was a creative legend demonstrating the importance of great creative strategy in a way that in my short career to date, no one had. All it took was a roughly drawn pie chart. 

So to the Effie Awards in association with TVNZ, our annual celebration of advertising and marketing effectiveness. It’s the industry’s opportunity to document great work that has delivered significant business results (or behavioural change) to New Zealand companies and organisations. Every Gold paper is proof of the value of creativity to commerce. Little by little, the Effies builds the case for investment in advertising and communications. I think, though, there are really three key roles for Effies, all of which are of critical importance. 

The Effies’ three roles:

1. To build the evidence for marketing investment 

A great Effies case study is demonstration of a marketer’s worth. Determining the strategic approach that’s most likely to succeed is no simple task. Great work is more likely to result from great strategy. When we get it right, the returns are exponential. Creativity really can create value and the Effies are a chance to document this and persuade our commercial leaders that with the right talent in place, the real risk lies in not advertising. 

An Effie Award also gives us confidence. Rather than operating in what author Paul Feldwick calls a ‘benign conspiracy’ in which we let the advertising run, don’t ask too many questions, assume it’s working and ask for next year’s budget, we can instead prove that it works. This proof provides us with the confidence to ask for more budget, and confidence that our job is safe for another year. 

2. To inspire others and lift the bar across the industry 

It’s easy to get stuck in our own bubbles. Even the most experienced judges remark on the privilege of reading great Effie papers. Getting an insight into other categories, marketing and creative strategies sharpens our own capability. Those who are beginning their careers could do worse than spending a weekend reading about past Gold winners and considering what they might learn and apply to the brands they work on, and even seasoned professionals still need brain food. Great Effie papers provide stimulus to raise the bar. 

3. To provide structural guidance for strategic thinking

It may seem obvious, but in the rush to deliver new work, best practice often gets displaced by expediency. The format of Effies entry papers is not an accident. It asks of the author a disciplined approach to documenting the road to success. Answering the following questions forces us to test the robustness of our thinking:

What’s the market context and the challenge we’re facing? Only with a clear understanding of where we stand can we determine how to move forward. With that context in mind, what are we seeking to achieve? What marketing objectives are we serving? As Dave Trott pointed out, Pepsi understood their position and what objectives to set as a consequence. The role of advertising was in service of those marketing objectives. 

Simon Lendrum.

What’s the advertising strategy that will most likely result in achieving our marketing objectives? It’s the
basis of most creative briefs. Who are we seeking to influence (a specific target audience), what do we want them to do as a consequence of seeing our advertising, and what do we need to communicate in order to influence that action, thought or feeling? Pepsi wanted to steal share from Coke, so the advertising needed to persuade
a specific audience (young consumers who are old enough to be making their own purchases, and seeking to define who they are and what they stand for as individuals) to think that Pepsi differentiates them from their elders and is a badge of ‘cool’. 

What’s the big idea that will most likely achieve the above? Pepsi wanted to be synonymous with youth and, in reductionist terms, be perceived as cooler than Coke. 

How will we execute the Big Idea? Too often, the execution is mistaken for the big idea. Clearly articulating how the idea was executed and understanding that this is not the same as the Big Idea that inspired the execution ensures the idea has longevity. The articulation can evolve over time.

What’s the channel thinking and media strategy that will have most impact? Why are we leveraging specific channels and ways to connect our message with the audience? It’s a given that our audience isn’t hanging out with keen anticipation for our next message. How can we reach them in the most contextually relevant way? We should be asking ourselves what we won’t do. Budgets are finite. An idea that’s spread too thin has the same impact as no idea at all. 

How will we measure results? If we’re to be taken seriously by commerce, marketing and advertising needs to prove its impact. It’s far too late to ask this question once a campaign is in market. We need to clearly articulate how we’ll measure success before the work has been done. If necessary, put the measures in place to prove that
all the investment and hard work delivered. Without measurement, success is just hearsay. 

Recognising what good looks like helps us move towards it and away from conditions for failure. If our conversations were ever-focused on the above questions, there’s a chance the work would be better, the results more exceptional and the respect for our trade increased. 

We can only take ownership of outstanding results when we can also illuminate the path that led to them. The Effies are our best opportunity to do this. Your next Gold Effie starts today. 

This article was originally published in the September/October 2021 issue of NZ MarketingClick here to subscribe.

About Simon Lendrum

Simon Lendrum is Chief Executive Officer at the Comms Council.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *