Twelve Effectiveness Awards case building tips

A Taylor’s Dozen

The IPA Effectiveness Awards provide a platform to share with the world the very best case studies, exemplars and advice that advertisers and their agencies can use to drive success and grow their businesses. To help bring out the best, and help entrants make the strongest possible case, I offer twelve points of advice.

I can't begin to tell you how absolutely chuffed I am to be the Chair of Technical Judges for the IPA Effectiveness Awards this year. Judging the entries is an honour and a privilege. And as well as being loads of fun with entertaining papers from all over the world, it's an education. The best papers really make you think afresh about advertising and how it works.

And that of course is the point of the Awards. To find, celebrate and share the work of those who are pushing forward our approaches to advertising and our understanding of how it works. To share the knowledge. To drive innovation in best practice.

1. Que sera, sera

The principal objective of the awards is to promote understanding of how advertising works. As judges, we ask ourselves; would what has happened here, e.g. market share growth, have happened anyway without the advertising? Papers need to prove the contribution of advertising, and that advertising drove the effect.

2. Chart crime

Got a killer chart? Great. Don't forget to give it a title, a legend, quote the source, and make it legible. A chart can say a thousand words; useful given the papers have a tight word count limit! Give your killer chart some space. Annotate it. Visually draw attention to the key insights.

Having said all that, beware of scales. It's probably OK to fix the scale on the Y axis to help visualise a difference or a trend for line charts. But where possible it's best to make the origin 0. Always do so for bar charts.

3. The technical judges are all about that base

Include the base in tables and charts for all statistics. Mark whether observed differences are significant and at what confidence level. Think about confidence intervals when reporting differences; the judges will.

4. Don't kid a kidder

Be clear, precise and consistent with definitions and time frames. For example, be clear when noting differences in market share as to whether that's volume or value. If different effects are observed over different time periods, flag this clearly.

5. Models

Rest assured that any models supplied in the technical appendix remain completely confidential. They do not appear as part of the published case study or in Advertising Works, the book series that accompanies the Awards. So, no need to hold back; share all there is to share.

6. Rosser Reeves! Rosser Reeves! Will you do the fandango?

Beware the Rosser Reeves Fallacy and remember that correlation does not equal causation. See the example of ‘spurious correlation’ below from the website of author Tyler Vigen. And go back again to point 1.

Popularity of the first name Stevie correlates with Netflix's stock price (NFLX)

Babies of all sexes born in the US named Stevie (source: US Social Security Administration) against opening price of Netflix (NFLX) on the first trading day of the year (source: LSEG Analytic, Refinitive).

7. So you want to experiment a little…

Well, good on you. A solid body of A/B tests over time, gradually revealing insight, demonstrates an impressive long-term commitment to effectiveness. Papers do not have to be about 'one big idea'. The judges love, love, love a bit of ongoing optimisation through experimental design.

8. Mind your own business

We have traditionally seen fewer B2B than B2C papers. Again, one of the main points of the awards is to advance our knowledge of advertising, and that means across all categories, verticals, audiences and so on. If you're harbouring a decent paper on something niche, or unusual, please submit it. I look forward to reading it.

9. What a performance

Neither do we see a huge number of detailed performance marketing papers. If you're out there thinking that your micro, in the weeds, performance case is quotidian and unworthy of award consideration, please think again. If you're sitting on a case study that shows demonstrable impact of advertising on your client's business, we'd love to see your paper. Please submit.

10. Byron Sharp Bingo

Quotes are great for livening up a paper, and often make a great point that really helps with the story. And it's fine, desirable even, to quote 'the literature'. But a word to the wise, make sure you've re-read and understood the literature you're quoting and that what you’re quoting is relevant to the point you're making. Otherwise, maybe stick to Shakespeare and Nietzsche.

11. Silly mistakes are silly

Please rememmber too spell cheque and also get someone to prove reed for typos, stray appostrophe’s and other writing catastropphs.

Check the numbers add up. Check them again. Make sure the numbers don't change all by themselves from page 4 to page 7. 

12. The judges are people too

So you can go on and on with interminable paragraphs that incorporate a multiplicity of extended sentences with no punctuation that have nested ideas which if you’re unfamiliar with the concept is where one idea resides within the explication of another in order to befuddle the reader and shake off even the most tenacious of judges trying to understand your point.

But it's better to write in clear, simple sentences. With one idea in them.

I hope those twelve points are useful. As technical judges, our job is to highlight to the broader judging panels those papers which show a technically well substantiated and unambiguous demonstration of how advertising works. I am really looking forward to seeing a batch of excellent papers this year, and to celebrating your success at the Awards night.

Find out more about the IPA Effectiveness Awards 2024 and download your entry pack.


The opinions expressed here are those of the authors and were submitted in accordance with the IPA terms and conditions regarding the uploading and contribution of content to the IPA newsletters, IPA website, or other IPA media, and should not be interpreted as representing the opinion of the IPA.

Last updated 19 February 2024