Going from good to great

The path from having the first stirrings of an idea to the IPA Effectiveness Award winners’ stage is not always a direct one.

So it is easy to see why interest often focuses on those Effectiveness Award winners, such as John Lewis or Snickers, that appear to have enjoyed almost immediate success.

As a result, cases of effective strategies that evolved gradually can get less attention.

But the risk of concentrating on the instances of ‘overnight sensations’ for effectiveness insights is that we can miss out on learnings about how marketers developed an activity from an underwhelming start to greater and greater effectiveness.

Ahead of the IPA's upcoming Eff Event on how Guinness and other brands took work from good to greater effectiveness, below are three examples of Award-winning cases that took the longer route to success.

1. Aviva

One Careful Owner’, (2014 Bronze)

This paper manages expectations early on by stating, “We might as well be clear upfront, this is not a story about growth.”

By the end of 2008 Aviva had decided not to feature its products on the price comparison websites through which most consumers compared insurance quotes.

Instead, its strategy prioritised achieving high brand saliency to increase the likelihood that Aviva would be on consumers’ minds before they started comparing prices on products.

Creatively, the resulting ‘Chameleon’ ads used the comedian, Paul Whitehouse, in varied disguises to mix the familiarity of a known celebrity with the freshness of different characters.

As one of the case’s authors explained in an interview, the first tracking data for the ads was poor. It took about three months for TV viewers to understand that Whitehouse was playing a range of characters, and for attribution and liking to pick up.

The campaign used econometric insights built up by the team over years to guide its media strategy. To optimise the specific creative elements in the ‘Chameleon’ ads it also employed neuroscience testing.

Developing over time and multiple executions, this approach improved the efficiency of the impact of Aviva’s advertising on its sales – making its advertising cost per quote three times as efficient as in previous campaigns.  

The overall learning for the team was summarised as “If it’s working, keep going. But you can always fine tune”.  


2. Santander

‘From who? to hero’, (2016 Bronze)

Santander (smaller)

When Santander tried to grow market share by launching its ‘123’ current account and related credit card, the bank’s initial advertising did not cut through with audiences.

A second wave – explaining the ‘123’ product by showing its potential benefits on the citizens of Shrewsbury – was more popular, but lacked the required scale for a national brand.

It was only when Santander started using sports celebrities, such as Jenson Button (above) and Jessica Ennis-Hill, in tandem with ordinary consumer ambassadors, that the ads showed evidence of improving awareness, brand perceptions and consideration.

In terms of ROI, a measure of efficiency, the 123 activity eventually delivered an estimated £2.07 for every £1 invested in media and production.

Over a four-year period, the brand had evolved a strategy that challenged category conventions, putting product before brand, and using sporting figures in innovative ways.

3. Walkers

‘Going from good to great’, (2012 Gold)

By most comparisons, in 2008 Walkers was performing well, with well-liked and successful ads featuring Gary Lineker. It wanted to do better, however.

Starting with ‘Do Us a Flavour’ in July 2008, six Walkers campaigns employed a different model of communications that sought to generate more consumer participation and buzz around the brand and its crisp products. The activities typically prompted consumers into actions such as voting or betting around new Walkers flavours.

Between 2008 and 2012, these combined campaigns delivered more than 10m views (albeit with varying degrees of success), and the brand’s key metrics such as quality and taste improved.

Econometrics estimated that the combined TV profit ROI of the campaigns after production costs was 42 per cent more efficient than comparable activities in the 2006-2008 period.

The paper’s authors describe their prevailing mindset as: “We were doing well. But believed we could do better.”

It is understandable if marketers fixate on trying to learn from brands that have enjoyed instant hits.

But as the above examples – and the experience of Guinness, Plusnet and Everest discussed at the IPA show, the Effectiveness Awards also recognise brands that build success incrementally, sometimes by accumulating quite marginal gains.

Whether it is arrived at quickly or slowly, achieving a provable effectiveness is what really matters.

Carlos Grande is the IPA’s Effectiveness Editor.


Last updated 21 January 2022