Seven ways to gain client approval for your case study

Creative use of data, planning, and good agency-client communication are key.

Some clients withhold their permission for a case to be submitted for the IPA Effectiveness Awards. Here are seven ways to win them over.

1. Check what is sensitive and what is already public

The top reason for a client to withhold approval for a case study is the fear that a case contains commercially sensitive data. This often relates to figures for increases in sales or profits generated by the activity featured in the case.These concerns are almost always overdone. In nearly four decades of the Effectiveness Awards, the IPA has never come across a brand which has suffered commercial damage because of its involvement in an IPA Effectiveness case study.

Data in awards entries can be up to three years old by the time of the entry deadline. It will typically be a further six months from this deadline before the case is published on the IPA website after the Awards. The passage of time means that even if the activity in question was hugely successful, its financial impact will have been noted by the market, and it would most likely already have drawn responses from the brand's competition.

The important thing is to know what data has already been made public, both in the UK and outside. This can involve looking at company filings, annual reports, investor presentations, interviews by the CEO and other senior figures, and related material.

For instance, Costa Coffee's 'Creating a nation of coffee lovers' case study (2016, Bronze) makes good use of quotes and management testimonials from the annual reports of the brand's parent company, Whitbread.

Likewise, Sainsbury's 'Christmas is for Sharing' (2016, Silver) cites City analysts as proof of its campaign's impact.

2. Show the client a win-win

As Dame Dianne Thompson, the chair of the 2016 judges, explains below, creating an IPA Effectiveness Awards entry is an opportunity for agencies and clients to work together. The result of this co-operation will be an in-depth evaluation which can be used internally to justify the role of marketing to the brand's wider organisation, including within the boardroom. It can also raise the profile of the agency and its individual members. 

3. Look for alternative data and proxies

Authors can use indexed data to show the relative growth generated by the marketing activity without revealing the absolute numbers. The Pepsi Max -'Unbelievable' case (2016, Bronze) uses indexed data to show increases in the soft drink brand's sales value and volume generated by its content-led strategy, without quoting actual sales numbers. Effectiveness Award winners have often used third party research firms, rather than a company's internal data, to provide independent evidence of an increase in market share enjoyed by a brand as a result of an effective change in strategy.

4. Don't assume the worst

Some agencies assume that because organisations have a 'reputation for secrecy', that they will not participate in the Awards. However, brand owners such as P&G, IKEA, ALDI and Mars, for instance, have all signed off on IPA entries, in spite of their reputations for having relatively closed corporate cultures. It is always worth asking for permission, particularly as the organisation may already have published a case study on related activity in international markets, which will make getting the green light easier for entering a UK competition. It can also help to show if a competitor brand has been happy to release similar information.

5. Think creatively about the financial benefit generated by the communications

One of the persuasive arguments made by Snickers in its Thinking like a Hollywood Blockbuster case study (2016, Gold) is that it created such economies of scale by producing work that could run in multiple markets that it already generated a return for the brand by production cost savings alone, even before taking into account the impact of its campaign on the brand's sales. Some clients find it easier to release figures for savings than they do for profit or sales, and there are many ways to calculate the financial payback of communications, as the Awards entry pack makes clear.

6. Quote relevant third parties

If clients remain reluctant or restricted from being quoted publicly in a case, credible third party commentators can be used. For instance, Lidl's case study, 'How Lidl found itself atop The Grocer's Christmas Tree' (2016, Silver) used an industry ranking produced by The Grocer, the retailer publication, to uderpin its claim to have outperformed its rivals.

7. Always give the client time and options

Above all, it is important to talk to clients early, transparently and consistently throughout the awards process about the kinds of data that you want to include in your case.

It pays to think about gaining sign-off from the most senior client possible. You should also plan ahead to ensure the availability of key stakeholders in the final weeks before entries are due. Reassure the client that they will be able to vet the final draft of the case in good time. Be persistent but flexible in case circumstances change, such as in the event that the main client contact changes job or leaves the organisation.

In the ultimate resort, company data that cannot be made public can be put into an appendix that will be seen only by judges, and will not be in the published version of the case.

However, with creative use of data, some planning, and good agency-client communication, this can be avoided. The IPA prefers cases to be published in full so that the industry, and the wider business audience, can learn from the evidence of effective good communications.

Download the Effectiveness Awards Entry Pack.


Last updated 01 May 2024